Lynn Roaten Terrell
I never played with dolls. I guess I just never saw the point. They couldn't talk. They couldn't respond. They couldn't feel or return love. It always irritated people who tried to buy gifts for me. Eventually, they stopped trying to force the dolls on me, since they just laid limply on the floor of my closet. Instead, they wisely decided to offer me a menagerie of stuffed animals. They could comfort me. They gave me joy. They were worth that emotional investment that would allow me to grow and expand as a human being.
I discovered a thousand ways to entertain them. I turned the bears my grandmother made into handsome princes. The sock monkey, with its funny red face, was my king, and wore a crown of clover I wove for him in the garden. And my white Sunday gloves looked like 10 sequined elves, with materials borrowed from my mother's sewing kit. In so many and diverse ways, we are all like that.
One October, our son had been very ill. "Go home and pray that he has mono," the doctor advised, as they drew another vial of blood. "If not, the pediatric oncologist will probably want to do a bone marrow."
It was his ninth birthday. We went for pizza, and I made them put a candle in it. Then I escorted him, aisle by aisle, through the biggest toy store in town--leisurely investigating ceiling-high shelves, stacked high with irresistible forms of entertainment. He didn't seem to be impressed.
"Tell me," I coaxed, "which toys do you want for your birthday?" - knowing new toys would come in handy on a car trip to a hospital in another town.
"I already told you that all I want for my birthday is a bunch of old boards and a can of big nails," he stated emphatically.
"But look at all of these great toys! How about that red truck and maybe this tool kit. It has a hammer and saw . . .?" My voice was rising, and we were causing a scene.
"I know what I want," he pouted, "and they don't have it here!"
I was exasperated - knowing that people don't give old boards and can of big nails for birthday presents; knowing full well that he couldn't take old boards and a can of big nails to a hospital; knowing that this may be the last birthday present; knowing that I was frustrated with my son - just because he was sick, and I was scared.
It was surreal. Nothing in that scene made any sense, based on our normal perceptions of reality. So, we just stood angrily in the middle of the store - surrounded by children squealing with delight, and parents mentally adding up the cost of their children's exciting adventure. And we both started to cry.
Somehow we survived his childhood, and he has now focused that spark of creative juice that was germinating in the toy store, into developing new software programs for major corporations. And if he were to ask for a bunch of old boards and a can of big nails, they would gladly insure that he had the necessary tools to fulfill whatever idea is lighting up the dark recesses of his creative mind.
We each have that spark of budding genius. But, too often, we just don't know how to unleash it. Are there clues? Once again, we need to understand and appreciate how a child thinks.
When our son was three, he matter-of-factly announced, "I don't want to go to Aunt Jo's house anymore, because she forces me to have fun!" In retrospect I think it was just the same frustration he expressed in the toy store - surrounded by a million dollars worth of plastic and electronic entertainment - when he pouted "I know what I want, and they don't have it here!"
It was the same irritation I had when people insisted that I would learn to play with dolls, because that's what girls were supposed to do. After all, that's how girls learned to become mothers. Well, I was a woman before I became a mother. But before that, I was a creative child who needed for people to just get out of my way and stop telling me what girls needed in order to become successful members of society.
As children, our perceptions are formed by innate drive and ability. As we mature, we tend to become conditioned to others interpretation of our purpose and place in society. Fortunately, my family finally stopped telling me what I should enjoy doing, and allowed me to experience the creativity that is inherent in all children. And there was so much joy and excitement invested in the years it took to achieve those goals!
Our four-year-old granddaughter, Nichole, got a doll house for Christmas. So Christmas Day was devoted to analysis of complicated instructions and tedious assembly. Since she soon tired of it, by springtime, her mother decided to put it out of the way. But, when she went in to retrieve it, Nichole - a budding engineer - had completely disassembled it, and was sitting in the middle of the floor, systematically reconstructing it - from memory.
I saw a sign one time that read, "I was not put on this earth to live up to anyone's expectations but my own!"
Perhaps that was the sentiment expressed by a little girl who begged for stuffed animals, instead of beautiful, though useless, dolls. It was the same concept of another generation of feminine creativity, as a tiny little trendsetter fine-tuned her eye for design, when she converted a pink and turquoise doll house into a model for her maturing architecture genes.
As women, most of us can look back and remember the moment that we finally realized that truly creative niche which makes us each unique. As you search your own lives, you'll find it at that electric moment of expectation. Whether you were 3, or 33, you'll remember it as the time you wanted to stand in the middle of the floor, throw up your arms in frustration, and state emphatically, "Please don't force me to have fun!"
Lynn Terrell's work has appeared in print, on the radio, on the Internet, and even, on the voice transfer message of a telephone! She credits watching her mother and grandmother always working on a project for her creativity and perseverance.
Ms. Terrell lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her aerospace engineer husband, two children, and two grandchildren. Coping with myasthenia gravis requires Ms. Terrell to allow some concessions to her daily life - but none to the work that inspires so many of us! To see more work for Lynn Terrell, please go to http://members.aol.com/Resumez/writingindex.htm.
Visit her web site at http://www.aurorablue.org/lenwoodartgallery
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