|Cate, Queen of
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
While working on my computer yesterday, a loud “THUD” erupted from upstairs. It was the telltale sound of feet launching off a bed and landing on the floor. I waited a second, preparing to chastise Cate for jumping, but only silence followed. “Cate?” I called out cocking my head to the side to listen. Immediately, there was a softer sound, of her little feet padding quickly down the stairs. She came flying around the corner, cheeks flushed, out of breath, and skidded on the hard wood floor in her socks standing directly in front of me.
“Mom!” She hollered breathlessly. “Mom, I’m the queen of my closet! Come see!” She pulled me by both my hands up and off my chair and upstairs. In her room set up in chairs and in all corners of her room covering every inch of surface area were stuffed animals and her favorite Barbies. “They are waiting for you to come see me get my crown.” She told me proudly.
So there in her room, in front of her favorite stuffed animals and with a paper crown from Burger King, I officially crowned her Cate, Queen of the Closetlands. I gave a speech, she giggled at my English accent, and I ceremoniously lifted the crown high over her head before setting it down gently on her blonde curls. I think she was holding her breath as I did it. Her face beamed with joy. She wore the crown all day and spent some time in front of the mirror perfecting her curtsy.
When she fell asleep, she had the crown clutched tightly in her hand bending the edges. Gently disentangling it from her grasp, I took it downstairs and carefully repaired the tears and bends with some scotch tape so she could have her crown back today. I even set it on a purple pillow at her bedside so it would be the first thing she would see when she would wake up this morning.
When Cate came downstairs for breakfast, she peeked around the corner and the crown was already in place on her head. We both smiled. “What does Cate, Queen of the Closetlands eat for breakfast?” I asked. Giggling with her hands over her mouth she called back, “Pancakes!”
I was reminded today how important it is to foster that imagination. I just read that Maurice Sendak died today at the age of 83. He was the author of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Written in 1963, it was a foundational book for me growing up. In my house, the girls both know all the words by heart… often acting it out in my bedroom as I read it aloud. The book itself has rounded, rough corners, and pages smudged with loving fingerprints. We read, piled in together, them in their footie jammies like Max, and we just imagine.
Taylor’s favorite part is, “And the wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.” She still grimaces at me and curls her fingers down as she says the words.
Cate will often sit nestled in close to me jumping up to dance on the wordless pages, hopping from one foot to the other and waving her hands squealing with delight imagining herself in the jungle with the Wild Things. Without fail, she’ll come running back to me and whisper close to my nose, “I’ll eat you up I love you so,” as I try to steal kisses from them.
As my children grow so quickly before my eyes, we still take time to play and to use our imaginations. The world, however beautiful, will not always be kind and I cannot keep them from hardship and disappointment. But there are other things I can do. Teaching them to believe and to imagine. Remind them that they will need to work for what they dream is a place to start. And giving them a home to always return to that’s familiar and safe, a place where those imagined dreams can be had and will be honored. A place where my girls can always be themselves as they are and as they wish to be.
And I know they won’t always play as they do now – the dolls will get packed up and the stuffed animals will go forgotten in corners. But, I will always preserve a world for them where pillows can become forts, wrapping paper rolls are magically transformed into swords, beach towels double as super hero capes, and paper crowns are the most royal of accessories fit for the Queen of the Closetlands.