I Can Only Imagine

Have you ever listened to a kid tell a story? They’ll start off with the truth, but halfway through the story, they’ll call out the read-option play from their playbook, which gives them the ability to either continue telling the truth, or exaggerate it.

I’ve been a counsellor to enough kids at camp to know that, most of the time, they’ll exaggerate the truth.

And since they aren’t good at lying, they’ll try and convince you that their story is 100% real. Their tell is that they open their eyes really wide, nod their head repeatedly, and move closer to you.

Can anyone relate to this, or have I just unearthed a groundbreaking discovery?

Kids have wild imaginations. They must. Their inanimate toys rely on them to provide a backstory for their existence.

At that age, they can get away with it. Their imagination is seen as cute, childish, and funny.

But then we all get to that age where it’s not cool to play with toys anymore. Creating a story and mumbling dialogue under our breath as we hold an action figure in each hand, is something we outgrow.

We learn to use our imagination in a different way.

Whether that’s creating scenarios – that will never happen – in bed before we go to sleep, or actually writing them down and sharing them with others.

When adults share their imagination with others, it’s called creativity. It’s a work of fiction. It’s storytelling.

It’s not cute, or childish, though it can be funny. Humour is acceptable at all ages.

If I were to look back on my life so far, I can see a straight line from the days when I wore out the knees in my pants while I played with my toys on the carpet, to the present day, where I sit in a chair, that has lost its soft cushion over the years, and share my imagination through something called a blog.

When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Thomas The Tank Engine. Choo-Choo.

I had all the action figures. There wasn’t a train I didn’t have.

I also liked sports. So, instead of playing with the trains on tracks, I divided the trains into two groups – teams, if you will – and orchestrated a game of baseball between them.

The team captains were Edward the Blue Engine and James the Red Engine because they were the biggest. I made each of them the clean-up hitter in their respective batting order.

I remember there being a train named Mavis. She was a small little diesel engine. A perfect utility player, good for dropping down bunts.

I’d set up the field on the carpet of the family room. Luckily, the couches made a 90 degree angle, which acted as the dugouts. I’d position the trains in the “field” and assign them a position.

The bullpen was at the other side of the room and was marked off by my finger grooves in the carpet. Very official.

The “baseball” would be a miniature puck that came with a Mighty Duck action figure. More on those later.

Anything over the TV in centre field would be a home run. I had it all mapped out.

So there I was, on my knees, with a train in each hand. My right hand held the pitcher, my left hand held the batter.

The train in my right hand would “pitch” the puck, and the train in my left hand would hit it. This is where the multitasking came into play.

If the puck were hit out of the infield, I’d have the train round first base, place them halfway to second base, and leave them there.

Then I’d scurry to the outfield and “throw” the puck in with the closest fielder and force a close play at second base. The umpire was Mr. Conductor.

And when a new train came up to hit, with trains on base, I would have to move the runners, while fielding the puck, and doing play-by-play, all at the same time.

Are you still with me?

If I thought that a pitcher was getting tired, I’d go out to the bullpen and have my relief trains throw some warm-up pitches.

As I said earlier, James and Edward were the biggest trains and would regularly send the puck flying over the TV for a home run. It would always hit the wall and make noise, which caused my parents to ask me what was going on in there.

I don’t think they ever completely knew. My imagination was at work. It was hard to fully explain.

To them, it probably looked like I had my trains out on the carpet, and a few off in the distance behind the lock and key known as a groove in the carpet.

Just Paul and his trains.

I also had Mighty Duck action figures because that was when the animated series of ducks playing hockey was popular. I just Googled them and am having too many flashbacks.

I had a goalie and a really big guy, who both wore white jerseys.

And I had a duck in a purple jersey, who’s name was Duke L’Orange.

I remember in Grade 2, I handed in a mini assignment of some sort where I used “L’Orange” as a character name for something. The teacher told me it wasn’t a real name. I’d like to think I told her she was wrong, but I probably didn’t.

That was the same year I named an ant (our class had an ant farm) after the centerfielder of the Blue Jays at the time, Jose Cruz Jr. I actually wrote that down on paper and submitted it to the teacher.

I’m a very normal person.

But anyway, back to my hockey playing ducks.

Two skaters and a goalie isn’t enough for a game, so I plucked the players off of my tabletop hockey game and made teams.

I’d have one player in each hand and a 5-on-5 game going on the carpet. Again, I would do play-by-play.

Sometimes, I’d have action figures from Space Jam – Bugs Bunny, The Green Monstar – sub in as substitutes. They didn’t have sticks so I turned them on their side and used their legs to pass and shoot the puck.

My imagination could not be tamed.

And finally, when I wasn’t setting up exhibition games between action figures, I was playing hockey against myself.

All I needed was a ball. Fortunately, I had many since I owned mini (hockey) sticks. I wouldn’t use the sticks for this, though. I’d use my hand.

I’d position myself in the net. The “net” was the love seat in the family room, aka the home dugout during my Thomas & Friends baseball games.

My family room was a multi-purpose facility is what I’m getting at.

In my mind, I had no defence. I was the goalie and I was facing five skaters.

Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe were playing the point. Gary Roberts, Mats Sundin, and Alexander Mogilny were the forwards up front.

Yes, all of them were players on the Toronto Maple Leafs. I was Curtis Joseph, the goalie.

My left hand was my glove – it was on my team. My right hand was against me. It controlled where the ball went. I could backhand it across to Roberts, I could forehand it to Sundin, I could drop it back to the boys at the blue line.

I had turned my family room into an offensive zone.

My right hand was doing everything it could to confuse the rest of me and score a goal.

Whenever I got out of position, my right hand would shoot the ball on net, forcing me to make a save.

Again, I was doing play-by-play.

Can you picture that in your head, or is it too strange? Because from my perspective, it makes perfect sense.

These games I played by myself on the carpet were a product of my imagination coming to fruition. It felt like improv, but I didn’t know what improv was at the time.

When I wasn’t playing sports in the family room, I’d sometimes set up my own store. I was a hustler – a swindler, if you will.

I had different displays. There was a section for toys, books, newspapers, and anything else I could make a quick dime (literally) off of. Heck, there was even a lottery stand.

I’d put string across the entrance of the room, to show that my store was closed. My hours were posted on a sheet of paper. We didn’t have a phone number; no operators were standing by.

I guess you could call me a pop-up shop because I always opened and closed within five minutes.

My parents would buy some items and select their lottery numbers. I’d bag their items and send them on their way.

And then I’d “draw” the winning lottery numbers. How did I do that? I wrote down the winning numbers myself, making sure that there would be no winners. I worked hard for my 85 cents, I wasn’t going to give it back as a lottery grand prize!

No one would win the lottery, the store would close, and I’d go retrieve the items my parents bought and put them back where I kept them.

Told you I was a hustler. I made money and recouped my items for nothing.

I bet they don’t teach you that in business school.

That was me as a kid. That’s how I channeled my imagination. The make-believe sporting events between action figures, hockey games against myself, and a convenience store that was never up long enough for an auditor to ask questions.

I did other things, sure, but these were the ones where my imagination was most at work.

Now, as an adult, I find myself blogging and sharing my imagination and creativity with all of you.

I scare myself sometimes at how quickly my mind can piece fictional stories together. I scare myself at how easily some ideas transfer from my head to the computer screen in front of me. There really is no thought process. It’s all instinct.

I’d like to think those instincts come from the fictional playground I created in my family room. Because if not, I’m probably a wizard.

Our imagination allows us to create things that don’t yet, or may never, exist. And yet, we can get lost in our own storytelling, sometimes wishing these fictional scenarios in our mind (which keep us up at night) were real.

Perhaps, this is our adult-way of dipping into our old childlike tendency of exaggerating the truth and creating things that aren’t there.

Or, perhaps, it’s within these fictional scenarios that we finally see our true self and who we aspire to be.

As for who we become, I can only imagine. So can you.

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38 Responses to I Can Only Imagine

  1. Angela says:

    Mavis was a girl, maybe on her conversion to Canada she had a change but she was a girl over here πŸ™‚
    I loved this, I’d like to think your childhood fun has developed your creativity, but then it would be pretty cool if you actually were a wizard too!!!
    We were having a conversation the other day about how a lot of kids now don’t use their imaginations the way they did 20+ years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Mavis was a girl?? I did not know that lol. Looks like I had a co-ed team and didn’t even know it. Maybe I’m half wizard, half creative? That would be a cool mix. I definitely agree, I think kids don’t have as many opportunities to make things up since there’s so many screens to stare at. It makes me feel weird when I see a parent hand their phone over to a 5 year old.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Angela says:

        Haha now you know!!
        Yeah they don’t even hang out anymore either, my friends kid is 10years old, he had friends over for his bday party then they all left super early so they could go home to play him online (Xbox) ..apparently they can’t play each other in the same room anymore! What?!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Haha oh wow. It’s basically an online birthday party. Back in my day, we’d have to sit and watch other people play video games until the gave up their controller lol ancient times.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness that was such an adorable story about your trains and action figures lol!!

    But I totally agree with the kids and the stories thing. I always listen to the stories that kidlets that I nanny tell and just as they are about to wrap it up, I’m like “why am I not recording this?!” I say it almost every time. Because the stories are just great!! Kids have the best imaginations!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jess says:

    Love it! This brought back some memories haha

    Liked by 1 person

  4. m4gical says:

    When I was a child I had a fluffy soft kitty that I would carry EVERYWHERE and I would throw it in peoples faces (not litterally) and scream meow. Kitty was life. If I wasn’t playing with kitty I would be puppeting my other teddies, giving them personalities and making scenarios. so cute thinking back! My brother loved Thomas the tank engine too! I love thinking back to childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Becky Turner says:

    Sounds like you were a very imaginative child. I would expect nothing less really haha. Since I’m an only child, I was self-sufficient when it came to playing by myself. I was big on American Girl dolls and a few others, and then I’d also loosely follow baseball. I was also a big reader, too. But I’ve always been creative, and now that shows up in my writing, especially the fiction stories I’ve worked on over the years, although most I never finished because I had other ideas I wanted to write about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I have a sister but I don’t remember us really playing together all that much, other than board games and video games. I wonder how the kids who always played with others turned out. Are they less creative than the rest of us? Do they write stories they can’t finish?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. darthtimon says:

    Imagination is a powerful tool that we initially encourage, then discourage, then encourage again. Kids must look at adults and wonder what on earth we expect out of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Squid says:

    Oh my goodness the fact that you has trains but had them play baseball is a great example of your interests… You take average, everyday things and put your spin on them for your enjoyment, sharing them with us so that we can laugh with you. It’s awesome 😊
    My sister and I always played with Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shops (contrary to what you might be thinking, they never played together; LPS had their houses and storylines, PPs had their own). I always made up the stories, though, cause a three year age gap between my little sis and I gave me quite the advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Haha some of my friends would occasionally call me Polly Pocket in university as a sign of endearment. And good for you for using your 3 year advantage to your benefit! If I were the eldest, I’d do the same thing.
      I really liked the first half of your comment too πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ely says:

    Wow. Reading this made me feel a rainbow and two worlds worth of feelings. More than anything though- nostalgic. I tend to focus my energy on so much BAD that happened throughout my childhood, that I’ve forgotten tiny little memories and moments spent by myself, CREATING and being a child. You have lovely memories Paul and a lovely family- you’re very very blessed!! My favorite memories were taking literally any kinds of liquids around the house to the bathtub with bowls and cups and spoons and pretending I was a mad scientist in a lab. I’m talking shampoos, ketchup, orange juice, hair gel… and every time I added another liquid to the mix I’d open my eyes wide and do a mad scientist lab like MUAAAAHAHAHAHAHH as if I’ve just created the secret potion to unlock all the secrets of the universe. I only got away with this kind of stuff at grandmas house ofcourse LOL! Thank you for sharing this and helping to bring back some nice memories. Such a beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I’m glad this made you feel a rainbow and two world worth of feelings. That’s always my goal lol. Hahaha I can just picture little Ely sneaking things out of the kitchen and into the washroom to make wacky experiments. I wouldn’t expect anything else from you. Imagine we still did this stuff as adults? Hey! There’s your April Fool’s Day prank. Scientist experiments in the bathtub! Thank you for reading!


  9. Ely says:

    I meant do a mad scientist LAUGH like MUAHAHAHAHA lol πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jaimieweb says:

    This blog post reminds me of the quote by Pablo Picasso: All Children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” It’s true I feel we are all creative but we get lost with adult life. (work, money, stress). Thats why I like blogging I feel like that brings my creative side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I like that quote. Yeah, a blog is a great way to keep the creativity flowing. Almost can’t imagine how people manage without a blog as an outlet, though I guess we all have “something”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jaimieweb says:

        Yes, I know what you mean. I don’t know what I did before my blog. On the bus to work, I met a girl that made a coloring book with her drawings. So, I agree we all have something.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. onebigstressball says:

    Oh my days to be young and carefree again!
    FYI Mavis is a girl’s name, why did you ever think she was a boy? Maybe because she was a train?
    Up until the age of 20 I thought Tweety bird was a girl, and that the long haired character from Ed, Edd n Eddy (think it was Edd because his mates called him Double D which now that I think about it is v funny because obviously the boob joke that no child would ever understand) was a girl. Whoa that was a long sentence. And I wrote that all down assuming you also had cartoon network and watched that cartoon along with Dexter’s Laboratory and Courage the Cowardly Dog? If not, please get on it, they’re even better when you watch them as an adult.
    I love the way your imagination worked when you were a kid. It totally fascinates me that you had such a grasp of baseball as a child, but honestly, the hustling? Love it. πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ
    Especially because I can imagine a mini-you thinking you were making all that cash-dolla, and thinking you were being so slick but your parents would have known what your game was. Nice touch with the string too ha!
    I used to be told that my imagination was too vivid- too wild, but, as an adult myself now I encourage that in any kid I know. I used to get really upset at my mates if they came over to my house and handled my teddy bears too roughly… to me they all had feelings, and had to be touched and cuddled gently, or they’d get sad haha! Imagination is half the fun of the games you play when you’re young, so why not embrace it eh?
    Though I have been left with a crippling fear of being in my house alone. Too many scary movies mixing why my over-imaginative brain I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Honestly I just always thought Mavis was a boy’s name. I’d never heard it in any other context outside of trains so I didn’t know.
      Also I hate to break it to you, but Dexter’s Laboratory was the one show I didn’t watch…..and I have no clue what Courage the Cowardly Dog is. I feel like I’ve done damage to our friendship now.
      Haha I thought 25 cents was so much money back then! I also thought that $10 was a weekly salary LOL true story.
      “You’re inappropriately touching my teddy bears!!” I could see that. I didn’t like people playing with my things either, which is probably why I didn’t invite people over to play lol. They all just have such dirty hands and break things quickly.
      I still get creeped out by noises I hear in the night and convince myself that there’s an intruder in the house. We’re in the same paranoid boat!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Barb Knowles says:

    When I was a kid, I used to sit on the stairs with my stuffed animals and have them race down the banister. Or play boardgames and different stuffed animals would be the different players. I didn’t like to go outside, lol. You’re right. Where would we be without our creative outlets? I’m not sure I want to know, though. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dutch Lion says:

    Good stuff Paul. You are a really creative person. You should start writing more fiction. I see you writing fictional stories. You could write a novel I suppose but maybe a series of fictional short stories. Compile them. Make it a book of short stories. Publish it. See what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

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