Tag Archives: childhood

As told by a 4-year-old: How to find your own imagination

I would like to introduce you to my cousin Masal (“tale” or “fairytale”), she happens to be a 4-year-old and she successfully taught me a class on “Imagination 101”. I’ll go in depth about the syllabus in a bit. As you can imagine, it’s not written on paper, ha! You will likely be accepted into the classes if you are willing to spend a minimum of 5 minutes (with lots of toilet breaks) and only voice your opinions through being the voice for one of her baby dolls. I assure you if you go back to using your own voice, that’s crossing the line in a 4-year-old’s world. And finally, everyone gets an A+.

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I spent a wonderful weekend with her cute little energetic personality, and here’s what she taught me:

1. You can be any colour you choose to be.

This, I learnt during one of our drawing and colouring sessions. Masal first asked me to draw a girl, and I did. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with red lips. Then, she asked me to draw two ghosts next to her, one using the blue and one using a pink crayon. I really don’t know if she is ever impressed with my drawing skills, but her face surely lights up whenever I agree to draw with her. She later drew a girl herself, with pink hair, a pink outfit, followed by a pink ghost which shaped nothing like a ghost. It shaped more like a long scarf, or a blanket, but she believed it was a ghost.

When we finished drawing, we started colouring pictures of her favourite baby doll from a booklet that she held dearly. She happily shared it with me and started painting a doll. The poor doll had a green face, nude-coloured hair, body, eyes (this is her second favourite colour after dark purple) and legs that are half purple and half blue. Her sister Misra (“verse”) and I, told Masal that the girl she painted looked like she was about to puke. I jokingly asked “did she get car sick, honey?”, she answered: “No, that’s her face, there’s nothing wrong with her”. That was the first lesson learnt. As we age, we often stick to the norms, we don’t ever paint beyond the lines, and we do what we are taught that is right. Let me tell you what that all means. We lose our imagination. I hung Masal’s drawings up on our fridge as a reminder for myself that I can choose any colour I want, and look at things sideways, twist, turn and burn them.

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2. You determine your own boundaries and your own time.

My cousin is determined when she wants a playmate although most of the time she likes to play alone. During those times, if I am around (and her sister is not), I am the number-one-hot target. She finds me and does not leave me until I sit down and play for at least 5 minutes. My excuses include: “Honey, I need to take a shower”, “I need to dry my hair”, “But, I got this thing on my computer that I have to do”, “Can we do it after we eat dinner?”. Masal literally waits until I finish my shower, gets into the bathroom to show me where the drier is and puts me under internment until I sit down and play with her.

I say “Just 5 minutes”, and she agrees. Surprisingly, Masal actually has a good understanding of time (I do not know how), she will allow me to leave exactly when I complete the 5 minutes on the dot. I determine my own boundaries and she has hers. I have to make 2 dolls and a rabbit speak at a time and make sure they all get pretty good hairstyles for the doll-party and realize they have a magic rabbit who can speak human language.

3. Sometimes you let the other person win the race.

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I have been suffering from a knee injury for the past six months and oh boy, I complain a lot. During the whole weekend, Masal asked me to race her at the mall, in the parking lot, the house, the hallways, everywhere. I said I wouldn’t be able to win and said no. Guess I forgot, “No” does not exist in the kids’ world. The night before I was leaving to go back home, she said she injured her leg and it hurt. It was a lie but then we sat down together and complained a lot (together).

Right before I was going to bed, she said she wanted to race me. It was fair now because her leg hurt, too. So, we raised a 30-meter distance between the living room and her room. It was much like this: I walked, and she ran screaming. I was like “Oh my, you won twice! I am old!”, she said it was okay and now, it was my time to win. So, we raced again, I walked, she ran, she finished first. Then, she told me that I won. I asked, “But, how?”, she said I did good and it was fair. After I sat down, finishing it strong with effortless two wins, she kept running and raced herself? With the air in the house perhaps? I don’t know.

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God, I love this kid. Maybe, we all need a 4-year-old to tell us what to do. And just maybe, that’s how we all can find our imagination.

Bed Time Stories Series: An elephant who hates rocks

If he could hear me, I would tell him how much I miss him every single day. He was my hero, my best friend, a nightingale when he sang the songs of his young days, the person I could complain to about my father, my weekend dinner date, my confidant… He was my arts critique and my whole audience that could fill a room with his one-person presence. He was the Indiana Jones, a traveller who was native to wherever he went. He was an undercover agent, he knew everything. He was a philanthropist and the kindest person I knew, but despite all, I could swear he could easily obtain a master’s degree in gossiping, too. He had no fears; He could squeeze half a lemon on canned tuna, drink a tiny carton of milk with it, and not get food poisoned. If this is not a super power, I do not know what is! He was the greatest man alive.

All and all, he was my favourite person for everything I mentioned above… but there is more. My grandfather ran his own chicken farm! Once, it was a small local factory too… I’d beg him to take me into the now-dusty buildings, and let his words convince me that chickens would try to keep their babies warm inside while sheep and cows ran freely along the green grass. My aunts and my mom always told me about that smelly place they hated going, but I loved hearing stories about it. Everything was worth listening, if he did it.

This is one of my favourite stories about him: My grandfather took my mom to the national zoo during one of his trips working as a bus driver and a tour guide. The national zoo was the only one that was home to the country’s first two elephants. So, the story goes along like this; they walk along the zoo and get to see the elephants. My grandpa wonders if elephants could eat a rock, (I am assuming this is an appropriate estimation because they have huge stomachs and he was always right anyways), so he manages to give a rock to one of the elephants through the fences. To this day, I still wonder how he managed to do that. Well, according to my mom, the elephant was offended because to be given a rock was apparently a rude gesture in the elephant world. He fills his trunk full of water beside him and sprays it on my grandpa. It’s an amazing story really (but, I am just realizing now that maybe it’s not the best story to start with…)

As you hear from my previous story, my grandfather had excellent relationship skills, especially with animals… and kids! I mostly filled up the ‘kids’ category for him until my cousins were born a decade later. Anyway, I loved the chicks he had in his farm and wanted to raise some of them in our apartment in the city. The farm was an hour away from our home at the time, (It is now half an hour because of the advanced technology. The government built a faster route by blocking the highway for three summers with that same technology), and I needed to see those chicks more often; I needed non-adult friends, and the chicks seemed to be a good option.

My mother said one of her short-cut no’s when I brought this excellent idea to her, and I cried for a long time (I am talking about, give or take, four straight hours here). Next day, my grandfather came with a deep carton box that had three little chicks in it. They were squeaking, terrified to death, as if they knew a 5-year-old was just not going to be able to take care of them. I tried heating them with tiny bulbs, putting the box next to a heater, putting in tiny blankets for them. My mom told me not to pick them up with my bare hands and said I could hurt them, but I wanted to play with my new friends. Every time my parents weren’t around, I would pet the terrified chicks. The next week, one of them died, and I cried a lot, but I didn’t want to let go of the other two either. I believed I could help them live to be beautiful chickens. My mom immediately took the box to my grand parents’ house. That was the end of it. My grandpa tried to keep them alive and told me they were fine, but they ended up sharing the same fate with their sibling. I didn’t find out until a long time after. The coming years, my grandfather also took care of the dog I could not take care of, adopted my aunt’s cat, and supported me to own a horse when I came to love riding those majestic animals for a long time in my life. Lesson was learnt, I never wanted anything I simply could not keep alive.

During elementary school, probably second or third grade, I adored this horse cart for my blonde Barbie doll; the horses were battery operated and could march like they were in a parade. In the supervision of my mother, I was gifted the horse cart by my grandpa, however, I still wasn’t allowed to have the full set of princess barbies with it. Later around fifth grade, my grandmother wanted to renew her garden furniture, so we went along with my mother. I fell in love with this doll-size white statue of a fairy, and I begged my mom to get it for me. She told me I didn’t need it, I could not play with it because it was simply a hard stone, and I wouldn’t be happy by just having it. Same old excuses, but I was offended this time. I kept my tears in and did not talk the way home. Typing these make me feel like a spoiled child; by all means, my mother tried, but my grandpa wouldn’t dare see me cry. The next day, I woke up seeing something wrapped with newspapers on the living room table, I opened it. The fairy was beautifully laying there. My mom bet that I would break it in a week then; I am 21 and the fairy is still napping in our living room. She is still white though, as my suggestions for coloring her were not even under consideration.

Now that I earn my own minimum wage salary and he is gone, I keep the tradition going, I buy myself gifts, and disregard what my mom says. The courage to do that could only be taught by a man of powers. I silently thank him one more time.

Rest in Peace. I miss you.

Grandpa and I

Playing dress-up at my aunt’s wedding. (Age 7)