Snow White wasn’t loved by FAMILY TIES modern mother, Elise Keaton. No, to Keaton Snow White was passive, just hanging around waiting for a prince. But I will always love Snow White. She’s integral to my childhood. Then, I wanted to be Snow White, had no idea that I was denying my feminist side as I waited for my prince to arrive on a white horse. I poured over books and puzzles carrying her image, longed for her ebony-black hair and red bow, the flowing yellow skirt, and dark blue cape. So when my granddaughter said she wanted to be Cinderella this Halloween, I gladly bought her the costume. Was I living out my childhood dream through her? (well I didn’t try to convince her to be Snow White instead!) In fact before my granddaughter was born, while at Disney Land, I tried on the Snow White costume. Truly, you can purchase an adult costume for not a small amount and live out your childhood dreams.
But as I stood looking at myself in the mirror, I wasn’t Snow White. The really powerful part was the memory. Surely that kid buried inside me would have leapt for joy if such a costume had been offered to her. But she did okay without it. I wore a white cotton dishtowel tied around my neck. It fell not so gracefully over my corduroys, tee-shirt, and saddle shoes. And in my mind I was dealing with the Wicked Queen and hanging out with the Seven Dwarfs. The image in the mirror was different then. The image was filtered through my amazing childhood imagination.
My granddaughter and other modern children don’t have to leap very far to fall into other worlds and live out their story-dreams. The Cinderella costume is an exact replica of the Disney image. Television and video games also provide exact visual images and do a lot of the creative work for young minds. That’s a worry, though at the same time the games are challenging, combining fine motor skills with brain skills at a speed I could never attain.
Thankfully books still provide only the printed word as a pathway to fantasy and mind-dreams. And on Halloween it always happens—some parents and their creative kids let their imaginations run wild, producing a child at my door dressed as a sausage, or a stack of books, or an amazing vampire that sprang from a crazy, wild vision.
I realize now that my dishtowel wasn’t very imaginative. But it didn’t need to be. In childhood, reality provided constant discovery. The imagination created Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy who were wildly exciting and so very real. All you had to do was live inside your head. When you put on a pirate cape (towel)—you were a pirate. When you rode off on your bike around the block to escape your parents, you rode a beautiful horse far off into the desert. It was fantasy, it was incredible.
Children will always need their own imagination turf—those places of solitude that we found in our youth: a tree fort (a fancy parent-built one or a plank in a tree); a tent (the real thing or a sheet draped over chairs); or a clubhouse (the corner of the garage, a closet, or the old shed out back, works just as well.) It’s all in the mind’s eye, as that corner becomes a place where children’s games shed any reminders of parents and home. Another life exists. It’s the cardboard box and string thing. Or it can be where the video game gets solved without using all the gold coins. Because it’s always been true, imaginations need exercise as much as arms and legs do. So on a recent visit, my two older grandchildren and I built a tent using chairs and stools. We made so much noise and had so much fun we woke up the baby. They loved it.
And when my granddaughter put on her Cinderella costume, I was entranced. No dish towels for her. And the Snow White adult costume? I didn’t buy it. Instead I bought a plastic statue of Snow White that day. Later, I discovered it’s really a bank, a nice metaphor for holding my memories, and reminding me that the human imagination is still alive and kicking.
Thanks to Moppet 65535 photostream
This is an enhanced version of an earlier post