By: Matt Gordon
A few mornings a week I watch my son until childcare arrives. This morning found the two of us under the dining room table. He scuttled back out into the world to retrieve some toys—a little school bus and one of those loud balloon balls one is supposed to giddily punch till exhausted (one of the single greatest nap-assisters of all-time, mind you).
Excitedly, he crawled away from the world back to our little lair.
We lay there playing and I realized that I had never been underneath this particular dining room table before. There was really no point, until now, to be here.
No, it was this child’s innocence that brought me to this point, this place.
“This is our wolf den,” I whispered to him with sacred awe. Then I HOOOWWWWOOOO-ed with wild glee.
He howled small and sweetly back.
Then I realized another thing. A wolf den is not a place where I would otherwise want to be. I didn’t pretend that we were in some desirable locale, by normative adult measure. I didn’t whimsically intone, “We’re at the mall!” or “This is our Starbucks.”
Comfort aside, I didn’t even pick a safe place, for safety is not a sensible notion in the vast, varied realm of pretend, at least not in conventional sense. Sure, there is danger—what is a story without menacing dragons or villainous pirates attempting to thwart the justice of the heroic? But that is much different than safety. Safety is helmets and caution; imagination is risk and a flight whose wings will overcome the sun’s harshest hot designs.
I took my son under the dining room table, but he took me to an altogether better place. It is a kingdom vast in size and possibility, huge and expanding, larger than life, and just big enough for a full-grown man and his tiny son to howl at the pretend moon and bask in the real love of togetherness.