My imagination – the source of my craft as a writer – started when I was a child. Like every other person I played. I imagined leprechauns lived in the tree in our back yard. I imagined I was Princess Leia. I imagined I was Miss America. And so on.
But I really learned to push my imagination when I befriended a girl named Laura. I was eight years old and had just moved to Texas. Laura lived across the street. She was a few years older and an instant friend. Laura often came over and we’d play. When she could get me to stop watching Oklahoma (yes, the musical), then we’d play Barbies.
And it was from her that I learned the art of imagination. Laura’s Barbies always had the most interesting story lines. Ken was in a car crash and paralyzed, and Barbie was his faithful nurse. Barbie was an explorer with Louis and Clark and Ken was either Louis or Clark. You get the idea. Laura was also generous with her stories. She’d say, you should have this happen to your Barbie. And I’d say “nah,” because it sounded sad or hard. So then she’d apply that concept to hers and her Barbies ended up having a lot more fun than mine did.
I learned a lot from Laura in those years before she and then I got too old to play that way. I learned that lives different from “vanilla” are interesting. I learned that the only limits you place on your stories are those your own experiences force there. I learned that good things could be born from tragedy. I learned that wandering through the world with my imagination as the lens makes everything more interesting, more colorful, more beautiful.
My dear friend – who was such a bright light, ever sweet and fun and imaginative – passed away a few years ago this month. And the world is a duller and grayer place without her in it. Thank you, Laura, for so generously teaching me your wonderful gift to see the world through a different lens.