Into the Great White Open; Under Them Skies of Blue



Sometimes I mistake it for melancholy. And maybe now and then it is. She absorbs moods, energies, feelings instantly and spits them back out like a crazy spigot, but after the initial flood, she settles into quiet reflection. It’s almost as if she’s saturated by the sheer intensity of her emotion and can’t take more in.


I capture images of her gazing into the middle distance, or submerged somewhere deep within, and I recall what someone said to me once when she caught me doing the same thing. “Where do you go?” I had no answer, because I wasn’t sure exactly, I just knew that in the time I was “gone,” I’d played through a dozen daydreams and calmed a hundred emotional ripples. I never even knew I’d been away, my head is such rich company, but my friend noticed the blank stare and the unreachable vastness in my expression and so I was lost to her in those briefest of minutes.


I imagine it’s the same with my daughter.


But when her daydreams come alive? Now that’s my favorite part.


The other day, she came running into the living room clutching a key she’d found in her closet. “A golden key, mommy! A golden key!” She waved it in front of me. “It opens something! I’m going to solve the mystery!” And out she dashed again to root through her closet searching for what? A diamond lockbox? A rotting coffin? Pandora’s Box? Occasionally she’d pop out again and give me updates. “I haven’t solved the mystery yet.” Or, “Do you think there’s a map?”


When the mystery was ultimately solved — the key opened a fusebox behind her winter coat — her disappointment broke my heart. She’d wanted a real life mystery, a locked attic filled with forgotten treasures, a witch’s potion cabinet, something magical and enchanted, but she got a box of wires and switches. I promptly promised her a mystery to solve, complete with another shiny key and a map this time, and I hope my imagination proves a match for hers.


It used to. Like when I’d convinced myself that our neighbors had too much trash…garbage that surely held human remains or the detritus of a counterfeiting ring…garbage that drew me to their home again and again to investigate in the dead of night. The thrill of sneaking into my neighbor’s yard for surveillance, rolling my getaway bike along with me for a quick dash should I be discovered, will never be as powerful as it was when I was 8 years old. I still love my mysteries and my dreamt-up scenarios, but by now I’ve seen too many boxes of wires and switches. Still, as I approach 40, I find myself looking for the locked attic.


And I want the same for Toots. I caught her this morning, staring down at her new sparkly shoes, as she went to the place I go, the place where she’s lost for a time and barely knows she’s been gone. When she came to, I asked her what she’d been thinking. “I was just admiring my shoes,” she said. “I wondered where they will take me.”


Maybe somewhere mysterious,” I said, knowing how the word “mysterious” would please her.


The veil began to fall over her eyes. “Really, like where?” Her voice sounded like it came from the bottom of a rabbit hole.


I couldn’t think of a thing fast enough. But no matter. She was already gone, and so I scrambled to follow.


20 thoughts on “Into the Great White Open; Under Them Skies of Blue”

  1. This post…sigh…is delightful to me. I remember being that girl, too. I sometimes wonder where my imagination has drifted off to as the years have gone by. I catch glimpses of it, of course. It fires up when the boys invited me into whatever it is they’re concocting, but I remember. I miss it. I love this post.

  2. Wonderful wonderful post. Reminds me of when I see a really good movie trailer and i get SO hyped because i think this is it, this movie will slay me but then i go and remember that a trailers only 4 minutes and a movie is 120 and it’s very rare that a movie lives up to the hype and how could it, because the trailer’s a mystery but the movie is played out.

  3. This made me “writhe in jealousy.” I want to write like this – I’d played through a dozen daydreams and calmed a hundred emotional ripples – Excellent work! A+

  4. Beautiful! I love the picture, the shared “place” for you and your daughter, all of it.

    And, if I may, I’d like to recommend a book, if you haven’t already read it. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

    It’s about a found key, and the mystery it holds, and that place where we all want to go, but hardly ever know how to get there.

  5. beautiful.

    as i write this comment, i’m listening to my darling 2yr old scream for me from her crib. she needs to nap as we kept her up late partying on halloween and i got her precious little self up this morning at an ungodly hour so that i could drop her off at my mom’s due to an early soccer game. i digress.

    i often find my almost 5yr old son caught with the same “look” as the one you describe on toots… except his mouth is usually open. he’s a mouth-breather.


  6. “I was just admiring my shoes,” she said. “I wondered where they will take me.”

    Oh, this is wonderful. What a smart and unique and thoughtful child! Where indeed will her shoes take her?

    Treasure this memory!

  7. i think this may be my favorite post of yours. i have no doubt that you’ll come through for her and her golden key.

    and? tech support’s downstairs neighbors ALWAYS have a couple of bags of trash and at least one empty cardboard box sitting outside there door. and once, when tech support was in india, i went over and fed his fish really late at ngiht, and totally wanted to rifle through their trash.

    did you really do it?

    i just re-read and i guess you were 8. i’m 36, i guess should let it go. let. it. go.

  8. This was a fantastic post. I was also that girl with a wild imagination. Sometimes I still am but now not as much. Maybe I should go back but then I’ll probably just be labeled as crazy. My daughter also has a great imagination I hope she keeps hers alive and is never as lost as I feel most of the time.

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