Yesterday morning I had a vivid conversation with my 2-year-old about the pirate ship in our front room. Then it was a boat. Then a rocket. Whatever purpose it serves in his mind, to us it is an old, sturdy cedar chest that sits below our front window.
Despite the frequent changes of name and purpose, I knew exactly what he referred to. We’ve sat on that ship, pirates together in the middle of the sea, and given stirring renditions of that old pirate favorite, Jingle Bells.
Because for some reason, that’s the tune that pirates sing when they are out to sea together. They also pump their fists in the air for added affect when we get to the “Hey!” in the middle of the song.
For a minute, I’m not a dad, or a husband or a writer. I’m just the senior pirate taking the junior pirate out for an ocean cruise. I’m a giant kid playing pretend, and it’s freaking fabulous.
Not a bad conversation, or memory, for a weekday morning, before reality sets in.
Fast forward a few hours and I’m on my way home listening to news coverage of Super Tuesday in the car. I’m listening to pontificators discuss our perspective Republican nominee.
I’m listening as they talk about a man who loathes Muslims, women and journalists, but needs more information before he can condemn America’s oldest hate group.
I’m listening to them talk about a man who physically mocks the disabled, and brazenly claims he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes for it. (Sadly, he’s not wrong on the latter.)
I’m listening to them talk about a man who does nothing but play on our basest fears, and could very likely win the support of America’s Grand Old Party within a matter of days. His ideas are not Republican. They are not American. They don’t deserve to be dignified or acknowledged on the Great Stage.
His ideas are filled with vitriol and hate, and borrowed from another era. His ideas happen when we no longer teach an accurate version of history. His ideas happen when we get our news in 30-second sound bites from sources claiming to be “fair and balanced” but in reality are anything but.
What he doesn’t realize is America already is great, and we don’t need his ideas at all.
When kids imagine, it’s inspiring. There are no bedtimes, or brussel sprouts. There are no tears or Trump. There is only a pirate ship in the middle of the ocean. What’s a kid, or a pirate, left to do in that moment? The only thing he can do. Sing Jingle Bells.
When it comes to imagination, it is the kids who are the professionals.
When adults want to imagine, why can’t we learn from toddlers? Why can’t it be a little more innocent, and a little less fear driven? Why does it have to be in the middle of a crucial presidential election cycle – and obstruct one of our most adult responsibilities (to vote)?
When reality feels a little too adult-like I want to crank up the stereo, and sing as loud and passionately as I can, too. This is why I play the Zeppelin on full volume in the car, and pretend no one else can see me as I sing along. For a minute it may take me away from my preoccupied thoughts, but they always seem to resurface at some point.
Jamie is only 2, so luckily I’m not quite into the stage where I have to explain the unexplainable. I don’t have to talk with him yet about the politics of hate, or how some people think their toupees actually look real.
But someday, he’ll want to know. And sadly this will be a jolt out of the make believe land of the pirate ship, and into a sad chapter of American history.
Right now we can only hope it’s a passing chapter. We can only hope that we are not the generation that gave the rest of the world (and ensuing generations) President Trump. That’s not a fantasy. That’s a nightmare.