When I watch my granddaughter Ellie at play, I am reminded of just how amazing and fantastical the world can be. At the very young age of two and a half, Ellie has an imagination that takes her to incredible places and lets her be a hundred different characters in one short day.
She is amazing.
I sit back to watch, and I marvel at how effortless it is for her to create her own world and to inhabit that world with total abandon.
Today, for example, we were outside on the lawn. The kiddie pool was filled and a bunch of toys were spread around the yard. Baby Johnny, at only 11 months, was happy to splash in the pool and touch the water coming out of the hose. He chewed on grass, and kicked his feet. He pulled himself to standing on my lawn chair. He was happy to be in the moment, touching and mouthing every concrete novelty in front of him.
But Ellie. Ellie was in another place entirely.
“Nonni!” she called, “Elsa and Anna are here today!”
“Hi, girls!” I answered as she ran toward me with her arms wide open.
I’m not sure why Ellie so often pretends to be both Anna and Elsa, but they were on my lawn today. Maybe it’s because the two stars of the movie “Frozen” are sisters, and Ellie is in need of a young companion. Maybe it’s because the two young women in the movie have adventures and face dangers and rush from one exciting moment to the next.
Maybe its the beautiful clothes that they wear, or the endearing little snowman who befriends them.
I don’t know.
All I know is that today, in the 85 degree heat, Ellie rushed all around the yard, from the pool to the bikes to the strawberry patch and back again.
“Elsa! Come with me! We need to go home!”
“I’m coming, Anna! I have to bring these puppies!”
“Oh, no! Nonni, there is a flood and Elsa and Anna have to save the puppies!”
Little was required of me, for which I was grateful. I was busy pulling sticks and bugs out of Johnny’s mouth. But I was so enthralled watching her, listening to her running dialogue.
“Anna, wait! The puppies need to have food!”
“Elsa, come with me! I have puppy food here in my frozen castle!”
I could almost see the scenes she was describing as she ran from the pool to the spot on the lawn where her “puppies” were recovering from their ordeal. She was there. She was Anna or Elsa in that moment. She believed that there were cold and hungry puppies on the grass before her, and as I watched her, so did I.
So now, as the sun has set, and the kids are at home with their parents, now I find myself thinking.
When did I lose the ability to create a whole new world with just my words? When did I stop pretending?
What was the last game that I ever played? Who played with me? Where did I put my own personal “Elsa and Anna” and how did I let them die without a thought?
Childhood is magic.
Watching it unfold before me every day is a gift that I will never take for granted.