I’m guilty of living in them. From the first moments I can remember, I’ve preferred to live in my own imaginary worlds rather than the world I was born into. I enjoy going to toy stores and even buying toys because it helps me remember the hearty imagination I was born with, especially when I’ve started to forget about it.
I live in a rich world filled with villains, heroes, damsels in distress, princesses, frogs, kings and queens, critter friends and soulmates. It’s easier to believe there’s good in the world when you can assign basic characters to people: if he’s a nasty old troll, then there must be a knight in shining armor coming along soon. If she’s a spoiled, self-centered princess, then somewhere there must be a kind, generous peasant girl waiting to be my friend. Yin and yang.
I’m delighted by tiny, magical worlds I find when I’m out hiking, or even hanging out in my meager yard. Something with little rocks, covered with moss, and baby fungi sprouting through becomes a natural habitat for plastic toys to dwell in. I curse the fact that it’s not socially acceptable for an adult human to lay on her stomach, playing with toys outside in the dirt.
Worse than social shaming is the fact that even if I were to lay on my stomach and attempt to play, I’m not sure I’d remember how. The adult in me would think the words that came out of my mouth were stupid and clumsy.
What was it Alison said in The Breakfast Club? Something along the lines of, “When you grow up, your heart dies.” (Indeed, I just Googled it and that is the exact quote.) You forget how to play, or you don’t have time anymore. Playing looks completely different: people cheat on their partners, drink too much, shoot up drugs. Not all adult playing is so sinister, but in my opinion it’s more boring than creating fantasy worlds all day long with your friends.
I don’t suppose I’d have any desire to write if I didn’t have some fantastic beings dwelling in my brain. The very thing that has kept me immature has also helped to protect the creativity I’ve been capable of in my adult life.
So yes, there’s a pink and red striped hippopotamus named Gilbert that I sleep with at night. I received him for Valentine’s Day this year and we hit it off instantly. A few weeks later, Erik commented, “I never thought you’d get so attached to that thing.” Every night when I climb into my decidedly adult, king-sized bed I cry, “Gil-berrrt!” and tuck him under the covers with me, where he sleeps under my chin all night. Sure, I suppose a 30-year-old woman sleeping with a stuffed hippopotamus can be a little creepy, but I reassure myself with this logic:
I like toys and stuffed animals. There are much worse things I could be into.