"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." Thomas Edison.
"You are making our grandson weird." Those were the exact words of my husband Seth.
A few things about Seth. He eats each item of food on his plate one at a time, completely finishing one food puddle before starting another. (exception: chicken/noodles may be combined with mashed potatoes) Sometimes he bounces his knee so much I need a Dramamine so I won't throw up. He is afraid of possums ("those things will turn on you!"). When I met him he owned a necktie (which he often wore) that had an entire chariot race scene printed on it. And he thinks Captain Kirk is a real person who really did have a five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations and actually boldly went where no man had gone before.
So if he says something is weird, it does give me pause.
He was of course talking about the frequent "pretend" episodes that my grandson Cayden and I share.
We had one of those moments at Ponderosa Steak house last week.
We had just finished an exciting shopping trip at Kohls. Generally when we take the kid shopping, Seth keeps an eye on him (read: chases him frantically through the clothing racks) while I shop. It is a little distracting to observe the head of a 50-year-old man floating at high speed above the displays, but I manage to focus.
On this particular occasion my assignment was to find the kid some tennis shoes. "Gween shoes" were his preference.
So we found some fluorescent-y lime green shoes, purchased them and put them on his proud feet before we went in to Ponderosa for dinner.
Cayden has a tendency to get into a lot of Curious George type trouble. It is best to keep him....engaged.
There was a small line at Ponderosa and the people at the front of the line were having trouble making a decision between steak or steak. We had to wait. Cayden hasn't mastered the art of standing still. I could see the fidget brewing.
"Cayden!" I said, using my "Guess what!" tone of voice.
"What?" he answered with equal enthusiasm.
"DID YOU KNOW that those green shoes are magic?" I said the "Did you know" part slowly, enunciating, and spent extra time on the 'm' in magic.
"Why?" His eyes grew wide.
"When you wear them you are invisible." And I used my "it's a fact" tone of voice.
I watched the hint of a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. His eyes unlocked from mine and changed their focus — he got a faraway look as though he was somewhere else in his mind.
I knew where he went.
He was, for the next minute or two, invisible.
And like dominoes, one thought bumped on another — the possibilities of being invisible unfolded and he explored his pretend world. He slipped into the kitchen of Ponderosa, unnoticed, and sampled the blueberry cobbler with his finger (leaving only a small finger sized dent in the pie as evidence of his presence). He ran through the restaurant in his imagination, jumped into a booth and climbed up on the table with his wonderful invisibility-inducing new gween shoes.... and touched the tantalizing but off-limits-to-children untouchable paper pumpkins hooked to a twisted pumpkin vine, decorating each and every window sill in Ponderosa Steak House.
Then his brain — the part the reminds him of the difference between fantasy and reality — told him that gween shoes can't really make you invisible. That they weren't magic at all.
But maybe he wondered about what might REALLY work to make a person invisible?
And that is the value of pretend. The merit of imagination. Imagination is what the mind sees on the other side of the river. Intellect is the engineer who constructs the bridge to get there.
But for now Cayden Timmons was back. "Mamaw! I not invisible!" he said.
Seth and I spent a minute pretending not to see him, until the couple at the front of the line decided on steak. Then it was time to eat.
Seth worked his way around his plate, one food puddle at a time. Cayden and I designed faces in our ice cream cones with our tongues. Because we are weird. All three of us.
"I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free." Michelangelo.
Theresa Timmons' column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.