We all know that fuelling our kids' imaginations makes for more creative and resourceful adults, right? But is there such thing as too much imaginary play? And at what lengths are you prepared to go to keep your child believing the unbelievable?
The Fluffy Mutant Bunny
These days many parents stick their noses up at the bald commercialism of public holidays. You know, how long ago the X booted the Christ right out of Christmas. And how, for many (North) American kids at least, December 25th is less about that Guy Born in a Haystack than it is about some fat old bearded guy with a suspiciously rosy complexion and breath to match. (Yes, the same guy you grew up being taught at all costs to avoid. And then they wondered why you cried when they sat you on his sweaty lap...) Just as Easter is less about said Guy Dying on a Cross than it is about some fluffy mutant bunny planting chocolate eggs all over your house. (Quick, call 911).
Thus a new religion was born
When I was little, public holidays were always a big deal in my house, and I have nothing but fond memories of how my cousin and I marked each occasion with nothing short of religious fervour. For weeks if not months, we consulted and strategized. For our respective birthday parties -- March and November -- our mothers put in an inordinate amount of time and TLC that now strikes me as borderline insane considering they both worked outside of the home. Our Halloween costumes consisted of elaborate sewing projects, e.g. my Miss Piggy costume goes down in history; although I could only see out one snort hole, it was amazing! They made papier mache and hand-knitted dolls that were impressive despite being ugly as sin. All this creativity must have inspired my cousin and me to pour ourselves into crafts in anticipation of a half dozen or so magical dates. The milk and cookies for the bearded guy were a given. But we went over and beyond the snack. One Easter, in addition to painted eggs, we wrote and recorded an original song for the fluffy mutant. We were so thorough and painstaking in our preparations that we even set up the tape recorder to play and left written instructions. Such was our absolute devotion, our blind faith in the Bunny. It never occurred to me to question the logistics of why a giant bunny should be prancing around our house afterhours and hiding chocolate in the first place. Just as it never occurred to me to question the logistics when I accidentally discovered an Easter gift tucked away in my mother's dresser drawer just days before the main event.
The Easter bubble was burst
I forget just how or by whom my proverbial Easter bubble was burst. Suffice to say, it was DEVASTATING. The betrayal. The lies. It had all the makings of a Mike Leigh movie. The cold reality hurt like a tongue against a frozen flagpole. Jesus was much less real to me than that damn Bunny. I had more trouble 'humanizing' a bread wafer than a cute rabbit -- go figure. It was the childhood equivalent of a priest losing his faith. The very foundations of my belief system were shaken, shifted. SPOILER ALERT: Does that mean Santa isn't real, either? I asked my mother in between sobs. It was a dark, dark day on my street. Who was I supposed to trust now? Who was I supposed to believe, now that the people closest to me had lied? Not my godmother. Not my own mother. Not even the world at large? The conspiracy was bigger than JFK.
False hope is still hope
As a parent in my own right, I might question whether it is cruel to build up the blocks of your child's imagination only to knock them down in one swift blow. Is it better, I wonder, to instill in them a 'built-in bullshit detector' in order to protect them from eventual disappointment. Personally, as much as it hurt, I opt for the former. Even though the Guy Born in the Haystack feels like wishful thinking to me, like the grandest, more magical of fairy tales, part of me would still very much like to believe in it. Atheists always seem a little sad to me. They may be right, but you still end up feeling kinda feel sorry for them. Believing in something mythical and fluffy is, at the end of the day, what gives us hope. Why else would we sit through countless crap rom coms? And hope, even false hope, is still hope. The most precious component of any childhood. Rue the day when we must learn to "put away childish things" and accept that unicorns and fairies don't exist (well, except at the Gay Pride Parade). And they most certainly don't deposit Twoonies under your pillow in exchange for milk teeth.
The youngest old boy
When I met Mr Green all those moons ago, I couldn't fathom that the man had never undertaken an Easter egg hunt. To me, a childhood not marked and defined with such rituals seems not only spartan but tragic. I felt so sorry for him during our first year together that I organized a 'hunt' for him. I'll never forget the look of boyish wonder on his twentysomething face. Priceless. I can't wait to do it all over again for LGO in the coming years. I figure he'll forgive a little white lying for the joy -- not to mention all the chocolate -- it brings us both.
Oh, and while you're scoffing all that gorgeous brown stuff this coming weekend, spare a thought to the Guy Dying on a Cross, won't you?