I believe in the power of make-believe. There is something about princesses and fairy magic that secretly appeals to all of us. Four days ago, while sitting in the hospital emergency room, waiting impatiently in the late hours of the night, I encountered a four-year-old girl who was a fairy. Her mane of pale blond curls was mussed and disheveled, her cheeks were streaked with tears, her pink dress was stained with grass and mud, and one of the wings attached to the dress’s shoulders was torn and bent. As I shifted in my hard plastic chair, abandoning the three-month-old Time magazine in favor of a conversation with her, she shyly ducked her head and glanced away. “Say hi, Katie,” her mother coaxed. She shook her head adamantly. “My name’s not Katie. I’m Marigold, and I’m a fairy princess. Only my wings didn’t work right when I tried to fly, so I fell and got hurt.” Her tone was firm, daring me to defy her. As I leaned back in my chair, I smiled for the first time that night. Her statement made me realize that I do believe. I believe in make-believe, the power to dream of princesses, talking animals, and magic.
Recently, reeling in shock from a string of difficult events that were wreaking havoc on our family, I did the only thing that I could think of. I helped my five-year-old cousin button his coat, and together we went to the playground for an afternoon of swings, slides, and carousels. While he pretended to be a pilot, flying to faraway destinations, I sat on the swing next to him, thinking about everything and nothing in particular. He glanced over, and noticed the tears in my eyes. “Come fly with me; you’ll feel better!” Smiling slightly, I agreed. “Where do you want to go?” the five-year-old pilot asked me. I blurted the first thing that came to mind: “Neverland.” He clapped his hands delightedly, and off we went to Neverland. For the next half hour, we laughed as we flew on magic carpets through a land where life was perfect, never changing, untouched by the harsh reality of the real world. Sometimes, you want to see a different world; one where you can be a queen, a knight in shining armor, the captain of a ship, or whatever your imagination decides. That’s the power of make-believe.
When you’ve just had an argument with your best friend, your dinner has burned, you’ve flunked your math test, and your life seems to be falling apart, your instinct is that of a child. You want to escape to a place far away from your troubles. We’ve all had a day so horrible that we wish we could be a child again, curled up in Mommy’s lap with a cookie and our favorite book, oblivious to life’s problems. We put on a pirate’s hat, a princess dress, or an astronaut’s helmet, and we allow ourselves to be transported far away from life’s reality, if only for a short while.
As a seventeen-year-old high school senior, I am considered “too old” for make-believe. The clothes in my childhood dress-up box no longer fit, the princess crowns have lost their jewels, and the necklaces are tangled together in one big snarl of beads and string. I may be too old and too big for the costumes, but one is never too old for make-believe. Imagination is a powerful gift, and it is up to us to decide how to use it. These days, my imagination is used mostly to write papers and do homework, but there is a small part of me that occasionally enjoys slipping away into a dream world alongside friends or baby-sitting charges. The princess gowns may not fit, but the crowns and magic wands are still practical tools for a trip to Neverland. It all depends on your imagination. That’s the power of make-believe.
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