Children are an inspiration. They instinctively know how to imagine their way into life. They don’t have to be taught – they just DO. Somewhere in the growing up process it became more difficult for most of us to be so present in our imaginary worlds. I know I have forgotten how to do this with any ease. Every once in a while I can touch into this creative place, usually when I am with my grandchildren. They are such excellent teachers. I am so grateful for their innocent presence. They keep me stimulated and questioning and fascinated with the world. Here is a piece I wrote on a day my grandson Mathew helped me to grow in love.
THE LITTLE GENERAL
Carol Lynn Mathew-Rogers
October 9, 2018
He was so quiet that I had to walk away from my seemingly important computer work to see what he was up to. It was only a short hour ago that I had met with my daughter out on the corner of Hazel & Curragh Downs Road, transferring her youngest son into my care as she raced off to college. His arms were clutching his grey 12 inch saber (it’s not real, Gigi, he said when I noticed it), his nubby green ball and a tiny Lego motorcycle ridden by a black helmeted soldier with red fire coming off his shoulders. His oversized cap, covered in the bright neon colors of superheroes everywhere, was firm on his small head, covering up his recently trimmed hair that was changing hues as he grew; reds, golds and shiny browns, capable of eliciting sighs of pleasure from any grown woman lucky enough to see it.
When we got into the house he went immediately to move the Lego box from the corner of the living room, claiming the only rug in the house as his own. “No thank you” he said to the offer of more breakfast, and then he was off to a distant land of make believe. I had moved into my office, but now went in search of him again.
He didn’t seem to notice my presence at all. His compact five-year-old body was planted in front of the couch on his knees, shoes kicked off, hat askew, as he mumbled to the army staged in front of him. To the left, Lego-built vehicles: cars, motorcycles, even a small train, lined up shoulder to shoulder precariously balanced at the front edge of the leather seat cushion. Directly in front of him, a cluster of fierce dragons: the largest ice blue one, the angry red middle one and the only slightly more tranquil green dragon, flanked by three tiny dragons of various hues. Their snarling tooth-filled mouths agape, they stood frozen in poses of power and strength. To his right, a troop of star wars characters: miniature figures that Grandma bought for herself but that every one of her five grandsons cherished as important members of ever imaginary war. And finally, the row of 1-inch tall pewter knights: men at arms ready to do whatever it took to win the day.
Later he would try to count them all, not able to get past 25 or so before getting confused, so we counted them together: 53 characters in all. He was very impressed! But before the counting, I was only aware of the magnitude of his troops, all lined up ready for battle, and how focused he was on staging the whole scene. His small fingers moved various figures from here to there, and his whispered orders were interspersed with guttural sounds of gunfire and the occasional moan as someone died in battle. I stayed to watch, my work forgotten, as this little general, lost in the intricate maneuverings of war, entrenched himself even deeper into my heart.