Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Innocence of 5-Year-Olds

I spent some time with my nieces, Ella and Ava (ages 5 & 3, respectively), last night, and as is tradition, they asked their Aunt Selle (that's me) to come play with them. I usually try to indulge--playing pretend can be fun. (I especially like the game, Hide Aunt Selle in the Closet, because it means I can get a nap.)

Before we started playing, Ava disappeared and Ella and I played on the front porch.

"What are we playing?" I asked.

"We're playing 'People,'" said Ella.

Interesting name.

Ella pointed to the seven multi-colored glass lanterns on the ground. "Those are our students, and we are going to teach them to fly."

Right. But hey, I write about guardian angels, so I shouldn't have had any trouble imagining lanterns as people or teaching the lanterns to fly. (In all my years of life, I never thought I'd write that sentence.)

Ella pulled out a pink feather and started pacing back in forth in front of our pretend students, her blond hair bouncing as she talked. "And today," she announced, "we're going to learn to fly with our magic feather..."

Someone has seen way too much of Disney's Dumbo.

"...and you have to make a wish when you fly with the feather," Ella continued, "or your wish won't come true."

Don't forget to remind them to make it upon a star...

Every now and then, Ella instructed me to teach the class. After I played along and sang a few Dumbo songs (Yes I have them memorized. I'm an auditory learner. Once I hear it, it sticks. Ask me to sing you some commercial jingles sometime.), I instructed Ella to tell them the rest.

"And now we're going to tell you a story about the feather," continued Ella.

Fearing my "cool aunt" status at stake, I feverishly skimmed through my memories of Dumbo so I could keep up. I can do this, I'm a fantasy writer.

Ella began telling a story about a flying elephant with a magic feather that it got from a black bird. Once the elephant began flying, she turned to me to continue the story.

Wouldn't it be cool if Dumbo encountered a dragon during his flights?

I couldn't help it. Dumbo always bored me as a kid (except for the Pink Elephant song, which freaked me out).

"And then," I began, "the elephant encountered an animal he had never seen before." Ella's blue eyes grew big with excitement--a reaction I love when I tell a story. "It was huge," I continued, "and it looked like a lizard but with wings!" I turned to Ella. "Do you know what it was?"

Ella nodded. She stood up straight and proudly stated, "A flying squirrel."

I seem to remember the lanterns laughing at me.