For a poor kid, an imagination is as valuable as air. Or water. Or government cheese. Without it, I’m not sure I would have made it to adulthood.
Yesterday, my book made mention of the American Girl books dolls empire, and my poor kid imagination skills came rushing back to me. Of course, I didn’t have an American Girl doll because we were poor. Wicked poor. Live-on-the-farm-and-kill-your-own-chickens-because-you-have-to-not-because-you-want-to-poor. But I did have some of the books – they were always at the top of my Christmas & birthday wish-lists, and I always had the option to check them out from the library, along with the latest Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High books.
The books were great, and, in the time before internet, they entertained me time and time again. But then, there was the American Girl catalog. Chock full of overpriced rich-girl must-haves, dolls that look like you, dolls that look like your friends, dolls that look like girls in the books, clothes for the dolls, clothes for you that matched the clothes for the dolls, merchandise, merchandise, merchandise. The catalog had everything any spoiled brat would need to create a utopia for Felicity, Kit, or Molly, or any “Just Like You” doll. Dressers and beds and scarves and hats and ass-loads of crap.
I knew I would never get an American Girl doll. And that was okay. Because the much-loved American Girl catalog was thick enough for me to get totally lost in. I didn’t want a doll to put on a shelf anyway, I wanted to be immersed in the story. I want to be BFFs with Felicity, growing up during the American Revolution, going to visit her grandfather and embarking on adventures. Screw a fucking doll! I wanted to LIVE in the catalog. I wanted to trade secrets on the gorgeous hardwood canopy bed on page 118. I wanted to help Addy reunite her family after slavery tore it apart. I wanted to show my patriotic side and sport matching pigtails with Molly, growing up during WWII. And really, all I needed to achieve these dreams was my poor-kid imagination, and that gorgeous catalog.
Now, with my carefully cultivated poor kid imagination, I spend the nights I can’t sleep, or the times I’m stuck in line at the grocery store imagining grown up adventures. Mundane things to crazy things, my mind knows no limits. I’ll imagine finding the perfect photos to adorn our dining walls, or the sights we’ll get to see in Alaska. There’s no norm, no constraints, no limits to it, and I love it. I’d be lost without and maybe it’s silly to say my most valuable asset at 25 is still my imagination, but I guess I’m okay with being a little silly.