The laughter filled the car so abruptly that it almost felt like a foreign language. They had been at each other since we got off of the ferry. Pokes turned into jabs and jabs escalated into full-blown verbal punches. Stolen toys, who got more jelly on their toast hours before, sideways glances, seat kicking, elbows touching, the grievances were endless. The noise that often fills my car starting with the first click of the seatbelt buckle, continuing with the fifteenth, “Are weeeee thereeeee yeeeeettttttt,” and rounding out with the last, “Don’t make me turn this car around!” is what I imagine a pack of wild hyenas would sound like if they were caught in steel-jawed traps. So this genuine, from-the-belly laughter piqued my interest enough to turn down the music to investigate the source.
“Okay, now pretend… that we are bank robbers, and I am driving the getaway car!” Vrooms and screech noises ensued along with sirens trailing behind.
“Okay, now pretend… that we are launching up into the sky to grab a piece of the moon!” Fake radio interference and blast off noises followed.
“Okay, now pretend… that we are babies, wearing crowns, going to school, and we are crying because we have poop in our diapers.” Feigned baby wails quickly turned into uproarious giggles.
I closed my eyes and felt the sun stream onto my face through the car window, enjoying this respite from the constant bickering. As their “Let’s pretend…” scenarios got whackier and whackier, causing them to laugh harder and harder, it struck me just how absurd I found this game and how seriously they were taking it. That realization was immediately followed by a deep sense of melancholy. To these sweet beings that have been on the earth for seven and five years, these games weren’t ridiculous in the slightest. They made perfect sense, but to my jaded adult brain, they teetered on annoying at best.
I couldn’t remember the last time that I allowed myself to be bold and do something off-the-wall without the attempt of a meticulous plan. When do we lose that ability to fill in the blanks of our lives with something wild and fantastical? At what point do we let fear and self-doubt choke the life out of that voice that tells us anything is possible, that we can be something other than what we are, or that the world can be dismantled and put back together again in a way that makes more sense?
Imagination can feel like a luxury and is sometimes born out of necessity. One of my all-time favorite movies is “La Vita è Bella,” and I feel the tightness build in my throat at the mere thought of the protagonist in the film who did everything in his power to alter reality for his young son and create a safer space in an attempt to survive the atrocities of the concentration camp in which they were trapped. It is such an incredible story that illustrates the power of what our minds can do when armed with love, and it left me wondering, Does hope fuel imagination or does imagination fuel hope? Can you have one without the other?
I want my kids’ imaginations to remain intact and untarnished for as long as possible so they can don their crowns, hop in a getaway car, and head to the moon (poopy diapers and all), without leaving the backseat of a car. As adults, it may not be moon kingdoms and bank robberies, but regardless, we cannot afford to be complacent with our imagination. I want to challenge myself to push my limits this year and believe in something which at first glance may feel impossible—minus the poopy diapers of course. I get enough of those in real life.
Marissa B. Niranjan is excited to fill in the blanks. After she is done changing diapers and wrangling her three hyenas in and out of the car she will…relearn how to crochet …finally finish her doula website …explore a new path and …