From the moment her eyes pop open in the morning until that instant of surrender at night, Gwyn emits a steady stream of imaginative possibilities. “What if I’m a hermit crab? How about we live on the beach? How about you’re my crab mom? What if I have a shell? A shell, Mama—we have to make a shell!” Which is why I stumble through the basement at 7 a.m. looking for cardboard. An old lawn sign makes a cone-shell; stapled construction paper make claws. The game lasts an hour and then she’s onto the next possibility, the next revision of her world.
Meanwhile, Emily retreats to the office to develop dance curriculum for seniors and I escape to write books and help others write books. Or we plan the garden, decide what to have for dinner and cook it, consider our weekend options, nurture our friendships… What if? How about? Every moment of every day is a dynamic interaction between dream and manifestation. What’s possible resides in the territory between what we can imagine and the physical laws of the universe—although perhaps even these are porous.
With a December birthday, Gwyn will spend a third year in preschool, which has meant that Emily and I spent the last few months debating where. Does she need more to challenge her, to help her transition to kindergarten? She’s been in a Waldorf preschool, where there’s no instruction and play is central. At age three, play meant knocking over other kids’ blocks, but now she’s moving into prolonged, interactive fantasy: The kids are squirrels building nests and harvesting nuts; they are fairies in a rainforest they create with hanging scarves. Another year of this and Gwyn will have the skills to imagine a complex scenario and work with others to bring it about.
I don’t know whether this will prepare her for school, but it’s sure good preparation for life. And, for that matter, for the life of faith. So much of faith is imagining what’s possible, believing in it, acting from that belief, and creating that new reality with others. When we believe in God, we’re believing in playful, interactive possibility. We wake up and ask, first thing, “What if? How about…,” then go searching for the cardboard or magic markers or whatever else will bring God’s realm into being.
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew