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Sunday
Mar272011

Talking To Bikes

Today, my daughter asked if she could go in the garage and talk to her bike. I told her that she needs no permission from me to talk to her bike, that it’s her fundamental imaginal right to talk to her bike, so hurry up, and please never stop.

My chest caught halfway through an inhalation. Please never stop.

I just told a woman last week that I had a seven-year-old daughter and she said “Oh I LOVE seven! Don’t you love seven?” and I said “No, actually, I hate seven. Seven is the worst thing that could ever happen to a child. Watching the dominance of my son’s imagination take a backseat to the horrors of our soulless dwelling in the house of ‘Realism’—reason and science—was the hardest event of my parenting career, by far, and believe me I’ve seen a lot of shit and puke. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I lose my daughter. I’ll feel so, so alone.” The woman was sorry she asked and required elaboration.

“I just mean that she talks to things.” I explained. “Has imaginary friends. She’s immersed in a world that lives and breathes and I’ll be sorry to see it die. I’ll miss it. I’ll miss her relationship to it.”

My favorite post that I ever wrote was about this purple cup.

*

When you live alone, it’s easier to form relationships with things that entail conversations. I talk to my bed when I’m making it, grateful for its service. I address my dishes, washing them in the sink; they bear so much, true companions. If you think these things are dead, part of you is dead. In the imagination, everything has soul. All you have to do is take the risk—leap—talk to your laundry, and listen. Does it respond? Is it just your imagination? Indeed. Where is “your” imagination. In your head? What if that was the big mistake? If, rather than our imaginations being inside our own heads, we existed inside Imagination, ourselves merely figments of some big Dreamer.

Can you imagine?

All of us merely figments of one big Imagination. Talk to your silverware. Talk to your dead friends. And listen. How much are you willing to risk? How much attention can you afford? Because, in your attention, everything lives. Spend it all. Spend it all. Pay attention!

*

I put my ear to the door but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Not the content. But just the outlines of their muttery form. My daughter— she talked and talked, paused, gathering a response, and continued. And I thought Please never stop. Believe in Santa. Believe in the power of your cotton stuffed bunny. Believe in all the voices that constantly speak to you. They never stop. They don’t. We just learn to ignore them. Little girl: Keep in touch with your bike.

Reader Comments (25)

My 9 yo was in tears the other night for fear of growing older and "crossing over."

That's she calls losing your imaginatio.

I think it's tougher when they feel it slipping away.

March 28, 2011 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I'm not sure I still talk out loud much. But witnesses report I'm often not really there. I have a dog, technically a stuffed one, that I'd go back in a burning house for. And my husband addresses all household appliances with an honorific: "Where's Mr. Vacuum?"

March 28, 2011 at 1:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMurr Brewster

It sounds like you never lost your ability to communicate with your dishes, so maybe she won't either!

March 28, 2011 at 3:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

I still talk.
Sometimes I forget not to when I'm out in public, in the lawn and garden department, until I get "those looks".
Then I just smile at them and tell myself they are just jealous.

March 28, 2011 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Is this what Ally Sheedy meant in "The Breakfast Club" when she said, "When you grow up, your heart dies."?

March 28, 2011 at 5:42 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

This on the tail of watching Finding Neverland, I feel like "someone" is sending me a message. I lost my imagination long long long ago and miss it so much. The world is so much sadder when the magic goes out of it.

March 28, 2011 at 6:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

I always get a little sad when I read your words about scientists and 'being right'. I grew up with an electrical engineer for a father, and I have always believed scientists to be the most childlike, full-of-wonder people there are. Things that are true are so amazing that I am filled with gratitude and amazement every day of my life. Doesn't mean I can't talk to the stars or my kitchen counter, or wonder if I am a dream someone else is having...because there are some things we still don't know. Anyway, I agree with Betsy - you and Elle Bee can always have the wonder.

March 28, 2011 at 6:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

You have so many stories. Why no book? You should be on the 3rd installment of some epic fantasy right now. You asked on twitter "why are you following me?". Really? It's because of your stories and the voice that tells them. From the outside we would appear to have little in common but I like stories and you tell great ones. You make people ask "why CAN'T this be real? Who's to say?".
I hate to compare authors and when I read 'he's the next so and so of this generation',it sets my teeth on edge, but if I had to imagine a book you might write, and I do since there isn't one, I get a sense of a Neil Gaiman-ish tale of characters that we could really know but who are special in some way and on some epic quest. Don't ask me who or why, you are the writer. I just want to read it!
Not to say that you should be like him or any other author, but just your self. If he can do it, why not you?
Do you hate these kinds of comments? You must. We readers presume too much, I fear. I wouldn't say a word except I see you calling out, often, "how can I make money on this writing thing?". And I just want to say every time, "you already have the talent and that is half the battle! Just write it! Imagine the world that your characters in your head live in, and make it real."
Just in case you needed some encouragement from a total stranger who is probably totally clueless- there ya go.

March 28, 2011 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterCrystal_m_k

BHJ, Prince of What is Over.

March 28, 2011 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered Commentergeneva

i whisper at them, "keep a little of it." as someone did for me, once. it hurt like hell, what somebody above called the crossing over. but it never quite got completed. and i try desperately not to be the person who ferries my children away from it, even as i play the proper parent who forces them to brush their teeth and hustle out of the house.

i am trying to find ways to be less that latter person.

March 28, 2011 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterBon

MUST you make me cry on a Monday morning?

March 28, 2011 at 7:56 AM | Unregistered Commentersteph

betsy said it first.
apples never far fall. have faith.
great post!

March 28, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterleel

I am happier than my son (who is 3) has a friend named "1892" than I am of the fact that he can properly remember his ABCs.

"Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.|
~Le Petit Prince

March 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

this is why you're one out of two people that i would steal a boat with. this is why i'm happy i know you.

March 28, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered Commentercharlie

I love this post. When I'm behind the lens of my camera I feel like I'm STILL talking to things ... it's my grown-up way of communing with them. Although we lose some of our imagination as we get older, in some of us it just manifests in different ways ...

March 28, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

the other day my husband asked me if i thought we should worry about our 9 year old still constantly walking around and talking out loud to himself -- telling stories, talking to god knows who, making imaginary videos, and on and on.

i said, 'no, not even a little, i hope it lasts forever'

i don't want that to ever stop.

March 28, 2011 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSlow Panic

I was sad to realise the other day that the believing had all dried up in my big girl, more or less; replaced by knowing (just about everything). Then the little one performed her first spontaneous non-imitative act of pretending. There was magic in that compulsive, self-conscious little act. Makes the missing of it in the big one starker somehow.

March 29, 2011 at 5:26 AM | Unregistered Commentertinsenpup

This was a wonderful read and I thank you for writing it.

March 29, 2011 at 6:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterYou can call me, 'Sir'

Can't help but wonder the conversations hoarders must have...

March 29, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterC.

This is why I never fuck with Santa Claus.

You're so lucky to have her there talking, and her you listening. If you do what you can (no pressure...hey...) to help her keep that heart she's so much less inclined to lose it...Dads are so important, man. It's never the bike. xo.

March 31, 2011 at 2:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

Sometimes I envy people who believe in a big Dreamer. Those people lead happier lives.

March 31, 2011 at 4:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJuli

pure brilliance, once again. never, never stop!

April 2, 2011 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmy Watson

I'm watching my 2 year old daughter discover imaginary play. I'm rediscovering my imagination along with her. Bring on the wonder...please, bring it on.

April 6, 2011 at 7:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterForgotten

It might not die in your daughter; it might not stop -- even if she becomes more discreet about vocalizing to her things. I always had that feeling, when I was a kid, that my dolls and toys were alive -- even things without faces or limbs had sentience; were listening; their feelings might be hurt; they might be agonized when I outgrew them or got bored and discarded them. Even clothes. Shoes. Knickknacks.

I usually managed to disconnect myself from the worries, just like carnivores (and I am one) manage to disconnect our thoughts from cuddly Easter chicks and frolicking lambs and Babe the Pig when we tuck into our meaty dinners.

But my real point is -- I am in my thirties, I cope daily with my share of poo and puke and Realism, and I still have that feeling that the inanimate is sentient and feeling, especially the inanimate that has become dear to me. I'll talk to my old teddy bear Cinnamon and give him a hug when I come across him, even when the kids aren't around. Lots of old things go into storage, not the garbage can, because then at least they have hope and can talk to each other even if it's dark in their boxes. And maybe, indeed, I or my children will need them again.

April 12, 2011 at 5:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterCloud of Secrets

Okay, now I am feeling worse about a conversation I just had last night with my children (3, 5, & 7 yrs). At bedtime my 5yo asked if the Easter bunny hides the eggs and I said no.

I was always up front and honest with my oldest about the fact that I hide the Easter Eggs for the hunt and not some giant bunny. I did this because I have always thought the whole Easter bunny thing was so odd (not sure why), and I did not feel like encouraging the illusion. I assumed my 5yo remembered this from last year, but I guess she did not (or maybe did not want to). She gave me a look that was a mixture of disappointment and bravery (she is a suck-it-up kind of gal). As I held my 3yo in my lap, I felt the immediate sensation of regret. My oldest confirmed what I had said with a quick comment to his little sister, "there is no Easter bunny", and I was wondering if the next question was going to be, "what about Santa?". Thankfully I dodged that bullet this time.

I want to feed and foster the imagination my children have. Did I just wreck it? I hope not. I still talk to things and speak for things that have no voice or a voice we humans don't understand. Hopefully that is enough example for them.

p.s. just stumbled upon your blog today. I will be back. Thanks for writing it.

April 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterLola

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