A place to escape; a place lost, & magically rediscovered; a place of expanded understandings
In 2nd grade The Land of Make Believe, an antique mounted poster dated 1930, was gifted to me by my father. He sent this treasure from California to Indiana in a big box with a few other things. My mother and I took a taxi to the Greyhound bus station to pick it up. It arrived into dark times and became my place to escape. Hours and hours were spent navigating the magical places on the map. Some days I would want to be up high in an isolated castle, other days frolicking with friends along the shores of one of the lakes. In this picture were unlimited stories for me to explore and inhabit. After a time, I knew it by heart; the holes, the yellowed tape spots, the orange marker scribbled in the water along the left upper side path just before it crossed the tall bridge to one of the distant castles.
Before 3rd grade we moved again. In our next place my flat imaginary world was replaced with a companion in the form of a lively black cat that enjoyed playing checkers, a black and white television set that got 2 channels, and an ability to roam the streets of Bloomington where I found more dimensional adventures in reality at the cigar shop, candy shop, library, bookstore and supreme enchantment in the gothic Episcopalian church with the bright red doors. It was a castle come to life, and eventually became a true sanctuary for my mother and me.
We moved many more times. The summer before 8th grade I was sent to California, during which the Land of Make Believe was lost in the shuffle of another move.
Fast forward twenty years.
I’m married with a 3 year- old daughter. We’ve come to spend the weekend with my in-laws in northern Indiana. It’s a home I’ve been visiting for over 10 years. As I enter the downstairs bedroom I stop suddenly, unable to breathe. Tucked behind the door rests THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE! The holes, the yellowed tape spots, the orange marker scribbled in the water along the left upper side path just before it crossed the tall bridge to one of the distant castles.
With my mother in-law right behind me I manage to navigate the space between miracle reunion and tangible moment, uttering in disbelief, “Joy, where did this come from?”
“Oh, that? It’s always been there. I turned it around to see if you wanted it for Eva.” She replied nonchalantly.
“It’s always been there? But where did it come from, its mine, mine from childhood.” I question her emphatically, incredulously.
“Um, once Scott was down in Bloomington visiting Ann at college, he found it in a dumpster, thought it was interesting so he brought it home.” She doesn’t comprehend.
“You don’t understand. This was one of my most treasured items when I was a child. It’s unbelievable, incredible that it’s here.” I softly reply with tears, as I go inward to contemplate the profound mystery peeking out from behind the door of my husband’s childhood bedroom.
I wasn’t able to maintain my claim to the Land of Make Believe; someone discarded it without my consent. Yet at just the right moment my future husband stumbled upon, and rescued it. Layers upon layers of meaning knowing that long before we met, Scott saved a piece of me and brought it home for safe keeping.
The Land of Make Believe now hangs above the sand tray in my office, half a block away from the house where it first arrived into my life. We’ve circled back, an additional facet of our story.
When setting up this office I worried that perhaps my draw to this location and the creation of the playroom was less about my clients and more about healing my own childhood wounds. In sharing this concern, my mentor said, “I don’t think there is anything you’re giving little Heather that wouldn’t be of benefit to all children.”
And so it is that in the midst of their work, children will pause, look quizzically, and then enter the Land of Make Believe. They often invite me to join, and we share where, in this moment, we’d most like to be. These whimsical journeys into the Land of Make Believe anchor our larger explorations. The power of this place continues to provide respite, wonder and wanderlust – what all tender souls need.
With deepest gratitude for the mysteries of life,