A True Story: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

     A five-year-old boy zooms up on his bike on my walk through the neighborhood.

     “Who are you, lady?” he asks.

     “I’m a woman who writes poetry to the moon.” I had just spent the morning writing a poem to the moon.

     “You are not." He keeps pedaling. “Where do you live?” 

      A little girl runs up.

     “I live," I say, "in a house on the other side of the moon.”

     “You do not," he says.

     “Yes, I do, in my imagination. You can live anywhere in the house of your imagination." I stop walking and look at both children. "What house do you live in, in your imagination?”

     “A house on a rainbow,” the little girl says.

     “Wonderful!’ I say as a second little girl runs up. I start walking again and all the children follow me.

     “Tell me where you really live!” the little boy demands.

     “I did," I say. "The other side of the moon.”

     “You're lying! I’m a policeman. I’ll lock you up for lying. I’ve got handcuffs.”

     I hold out my hands. “OK. Put them on.”

    He hesitates. “They’re in the house.”

     “Well," I say, "then use imaginary ones.” I keep holding out my hands.

     He looks at me. Looks at my hands. Something hangs in the balance. I wonder if he can do it, relinquish the concrete, the literal, and enter imagination.

     "OK!" At last he slaps on imaginary handcuffs. "There!"

     I look around at all the children. They're all grinning now. “Who has the key to let me out?”

      “I do, I do!” cries Rainbow Girl. “I’ll unlock you.” She does.

     “Thank you so much. That feels much better." I rub my wrists and start walking. The children, now joined by another small boy, run after me. I'm starting to feel like the Pied Piper. "Goodbye. I have to go home now."

     “TELL ME WHERE YOUR REALLY LIVE!” First Boy just can’t stand it.

     I stop. “I’ll tell you where I really live, if you tell me where you live in the house of your  imagination.”

     He squints.Taps his head under his helmet. “Right here.”

     “I live yonder.” I point in the distance.

     "I lied!" the little boy crows. "I live there." He points to his very concrete house.

     “I have to go now," I say. "Remember, you can always live anywhere in your imagination. Bye.” I start walking again. The children still run after me, all grinning wildly.

     “I live in the Blue in my imagination,” Second Girl calls.

     “That's lovely! "Smiling, I shoo the children away with one hand. “Run along home now.”

     They grin and all run back to their houses.

This is an almost verbatim report of my conversation with those four children a few days ago. I was struck by how hard it was for the boy to engage in imaginary play, although the other three children seemed overjoyed. Maybe at last they had found an adult who knew how to play. And maybe, they need more adults in their lives who know how to play.


  1. I LOVE this story of your encounter with kids Dia. It is one of the reasons I enjoyed working with the Pre-k and K population as a teacher. I could wear a chicken hat and dress up silly or pretend whatever, and they would totally be on board. It is surprising about that young boy hanging onto "truth" about where you live especially in the age of Star Wars, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and the like...We, as writers,need to inspire and encourage imagination. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. I love this story! I wish I were this much fun!


Post a Comment