Dash was supposed to have a baseball game yesterday, so he did his homework as soon as he got home from school, for once. Then the game was cancelled because there was so much rain last night that the field was unplayable, and there were thunderstorms forecast for this evening anyway, but there was his homework, done, and the whole evening still ahead of him.
Apart from a brief torrential shower, the storms had yet to show up, and all the kids were outside playing after dinner. Dash came rushing in after a little while declaring “I need to be Harry Potter” and put on a shirt and his Hogwarts cloak and made me tie his HP tie. (Fabulous Christmas present from loving auntie.) Then he legged it back downstairs and out again. I looked out to find five or six children on my lawn all brandishing sticks at each other and – this is vital – not hitting each other with them but waving them and yelling things like “Wingardium Leviosa!” and “Expelliarmus!”
I am really grateful to JK Rowling for writing those books, because she’s created a world that keeps children engaged in reading and in imaginary play, and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s a gift to childhood.
This year’s baseball games are on the real field that has the snack shop and the scoreboard and a playground right beside it. On Saturday after a long time swinging and climbing by herself, Mabel felt emboldened enough to join in with a conversation and a game – or maybe she started it, I don’t know. The first I heard was when she popped up beside me with a dandelion as a gift from “the Kingdom” and invited me to come on a tour. I went to see the Kingdom, where I met the Town Crier and the King and Queen and where Mabel was known as the Architect. Their society was quite advanced, apparently. About seven children from the ages of three to ten, by the looks of it, were embroiled in the politics of the Kingdom, and how it should be run. It was a delight.
I went back to the bleachers and watched the baseball game, because though I could visit, the Kingdom was not mine to play in.
If the adults can just leave them alone; if they are away from their screens for long enough; if they have inspiration from stories that catch their imaginations; if they have nothing but sticks and mulch (and maybe a cloak) – the magic will come.
And that’s what they’ll remember and it will be their childhoods and we are doing the right thing.