“It’s so much fun having K in class. She’s so creative!” This quote from K’s after school Architecture teacher made me smile, of course. K is fun and she is creative and I love it when people appreciate that about her. It also made me smile to think of how different her strengths are than mine. I imagine the feedback my mother received from teachers was more along the lines of “It’s a pleasure having Gail in class. She does exactly what she’s told and doesn’t cause any trouble.” I’m sure they never told her how creative I was.
I don’t know exactly where in K’s birth family her creativity comes from but I know it’s a natural talent not one she absorbed from either my husband or I – two of the most linear thinkers on the planet. We used to say that K not only didn’t “think inside the box,” she didn’t even see the box. If she was to have a box, it certainly wouldn’t be square shaped, hers would be more like a dodecahedron.
We tried playing Candy Land when K was young. I couldn’t wait to share my love of board games with her. What’s not to love about a board game? Clearly defined rules of play, turn taking, all those pieces stored in a beautiful rectangular box? K lasted about 2 minutes flipping over the color coded cards and moving her piece accordingly. We’d then be off on a grand adventure with K starring as Queen Frostine stuck in the Molasses Swamp. She’d want me to one of the villains and I’d want her to move her piece forward two purple spaces. But really, why would she want to play Candy Land when she could be Candy Land?
A few years later, she was intrigued by our chess set and asked me to teach her to play. We got as far as lining up all the pieces in their appropriate spaces before the King and the Queen decided to host a picnic. The pieces were moved into concentric circles (!) and they all had a wonderful time. I was left staring at the board thinking “Circles?? None of the pieces move in circles!”
Then there were the conversations we had as K grew older. Conversations around topics such as – did I think she’d get her acceptance letter to Hogwarts by mail or by owl. “K,” I said, “You do realize that Harry Potter is fiction? It’s a story. J.K. Rowling made it up.” She gave me the look that Buzz gave Woody when he tried to explain to Buzz that he was a toy not a real space ranger. It was that “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity” look. Yet her tone was kind when she replied “Of course you don’t think it’s real Mom, you’re a Muggle.” Although I had always expected the “You’re not my real mom” retort some day, I hadn’t anticipated being called a Muggle.
When her 11th birthday came and went with no letter, we just went on our merry way to the next conversation. This one centered on dragons. K was upset that some boys in her class liked video games which featured dragon slaying. “They are the best mythical creatures Mom. How can people be so mean to them?” We discussed the meaning of the word mythical. We talked about how dinosaurs were real yet extinct but that dragons were never real. Well, I discussed those things while K shook her head. “How do you know Mom? How do you know dragons aren’t real and dinosaurs are? You’ve never seen a real dinosaur. How do you know they were real?” I talked about fossils and proof. She proposed that perhaps dragons’ bones were too fragile to turn into fossils. I considered it and conceded that perhaps she had a point. I didn’t know, did I? Perhaps there are dragons living someplace we haven’t explored yet. How did I know there weren’t?
So K has softened the edges of my box over the years. I’m still quite comfortable in there but it’s more of an oval than a rectangle now. And I think she’s come to appreciate the value my order can bring at times. My skills come in handy when special stuffed animals are misplaced and shoes are lost. And when K heads off to uncharted territory to discover the truth about dragons, I’ll be there to pack the right snacks.