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My Attic... ©bobbiedeleon All rights reserved

Because of the uncertainty in the world of late, I found I was missing the days of being a kid. Not in the sense of wanting to relive the trauma that came with being a kid, but in the childlike way of thinking and believing.

I was missing the magic of the ordinary, that turns out to be extraordinary, for no other reason than you imagined it to be so. That train of thought immediately brought me back to a special place of wonder, a place I can still see every detail of in my mind’s eye.

A safe place, an auspicious place. My time there was short in the grand scheme of things, but magic happened there unlike any I have ever experienced in my life… So far.

I was ten years old and full of imagination and wonder when my path first crossed with one of the most magical worlds of my younger years. Growing up in small-town Oklahoma where there was very little to do, my world had to be whatever I created it to be. Full disclosure, it still is.

My family moved a lot growing up, so no house ever really felt like home to me, other than my grandparents’ place. But this year was different. We moved into an old house in a rougher part of town. My dad traded work around the house for a break on the rent. There was nothing that stood out or was amazing about this place at all on the surface. In Fact, quite the opposite. There was a broken-down ball field we all played in down the block, and the house was on a perfect side street for riding bikes, not so great for cars, however. Only a couple of us in the neighborhood had bikes, so they were communal. Most of us shared them. But the small wonder of a random attic in this house would ignite my imagination in wondrous ways that still impact me to this day.

The house was compact and had a sloped roof, so if you were even remotely tall, which I am not, you couldn’t stand up in the bedrooms or the attic. Since I was and still am very short, it was my own personal magical world where I could be anything or anyone I wanted in safety, and I could stand up. I could ride a flying dragon, fight pirates, be a mom, or create a cure that would save the world (wish that one was accurate right now). I was a banker, an astronaut, a singer, and a famous novelist, depending on the time of day, time of year, and the book I was currently reading.

My world was magic and in a lot of ways, it still is, because I’ve never stopped looking for that magic and sometimes, I catch glimpses of it. It’s the magic of childhood imagination and I can think of no better time than now to tap back into it.

I, unlike most adults, have rejected the idea of growing up. I still play with my toys from childhood, watch cartoons, laugh at stupid jokes, and color with crayons. I’m obsessed with Christmas; I love Halloween and I still talk non-stop and ask a million questions.

I believe being responsible is mandatory, but growing up is 100% optional and why would you do it if you don’t have to? It’s funny, even now just talking about childlike imagination and my attic stirs up that same magic and excitement for what can be. When I’m in my old hometown from time to time, I still drive by that old house. It’s in even worse shape now than it was when I lived there, but I will forever be thankful to it for the magic it allowed me to experience.

We didn’t have central heat or air in that house. What we had was an enormous attic fan that was set in the center of the attic between the two small bedrooms. My dad told me since we had nothing to store in there, my side of the attic could be my playroom, so long as I stayed clear of the big attic fan, which I did. The breeze with open windows was glorious and to this day I’m obsessed with the comforting sound of a fan, an open window, and the feeling of the cool breeze on my skin…or hot breeze depending on the time of year.

My Bedroom was very bright which was funny because it only had one window, but it was a large window, in proportion to the size of the room. The house was built in 1930 to house railroad workers. The train tracks were literally in my backyard. So many dangerous things if I’m thinking from a modern perspective, but I never felt unsafe there at all. The walls of my room were white-painted wood with lined grooves from top to bottom. The floors were larger wood panels with chipped blue paint that was beautiful despite showing abuse over time.

Walking into my room, you would see my one big window directly in front of you behind my bed. I loved it because I could lean over my bed and look out the window, especially when it snowed. To the right was a small door. Most people assumed it was a closet and I was good with that. But it wasn’t a closet, it was the door to my attic, the secret world of everything. An old wood-paneled door with chipped white paint over thin vertical lines from the top to the bottom with an antique latch that was also painted over and miraculously never got stuck.

One of my favorite memories in that bedroom was waking up to snow one Christmas morning and opening my window, pretending I was living in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I was excited beyond words when I heard the bells from the Church bell tower a few blocks away playing Christmas songs. It was like my Christmas dream had come to life and in a way it had.

My dad cut the door to my bedroom into a half door (apparently also called a Dutch door although I only learned that recently). You could close the bottom and leave the top open or close both and lock them. The bottom half he made with a small wooden mini desk type thing so the top could stay open while the bottom remained locked. My dad made the door this way because I wanted to create a tiny library, so kids in the neighborhood could read all the outstanding books I was reading. I found amazing books at garage sales for very little money. So, I made my own cataloging system and cards and kept the books in my attic. Anyone who wanted a book, I would issue them a card and they could come from outside straight up the small, steep, and scary if I might add, carpet staircase to my bedroom door and check out a book. I never had to open my door or expose my attic to anyone. It was a lot of fun. On the days or weeks, no one wanted to read any books, I would check them out for myself.

My attic was a world full of so much purpose for me. And I had each space created to foster different areas of my imagination and interest. Dolls and things related to them were in my real-world section. The place where I was a mother and teacher and dreamed of romance, a very unrealistic non-reality one that always seemed to take place in London; I blame Austen and Dickens for this. I had the general idea right through a best friend that become more, and I manifested that in my real life. At the end of the attic, in the darkest corner, I put up glow-in-the-dark stars and created my imaginary universe. It was considerably bigger in my mind than it was in the room of course, but I never noticed.

The walls of the attic were old-style wood slats, no paint, no insolation, just vintage wood. On the right side, I created a reading area. I used cardboard boxes no one wanted to create my own bookshelves for my library. Although I loved being generous with my library, no one was allowed in my secret reading zone. That space was just for me. Sometimes I liked to daydream, which to this day I still do. I made a place along the back wall to just lay and enjoy the breeze from the big fan and imagine whatever I wanted to. I often wonder what that attic would look like to me now, then I realize I’m extremely thankful I don’t know the answer to that. I’m sure I’ve made it up in my mind what my ten-year-old self needed it to be, not what it was, and I see no reason to change that.

I have a powerful imagination; I have spent years fostering and exercising that, to ensure I can always access it if I need to.

If you didn’t have the luxury of being able to create a safe space for yourself, it’s never too late to start. I created that safe space to survive when life got hard, and I still use it even though the actual physical place hasn’t been in my life for years.

During my battle with chronic Lyme disease, I found myself drifting, unable to access any of my imagination. Life can be overwhelming, and pain has a way of blocking our access to that inner child, no matter the type of pain it is. It was a fight to get that back, but I did it. I found ways to reconnect with that little girl and the things she loved and dreamed about. Removed all the terrible memories and focused on the good ones. I colored in coloring books, made myself play with toys even when I didn’t feel like it, and wrote songs on my very out-of-tune piano. I watched cartoons I used to love and daydreamed like I used to.

Eventually, I didn’t have to force it anymore. I found it came back to me naturally. But you must work to create and foster that. As adults, we have barriers in place. These are barriers life and society have conditioned us to have that block imagination, creativity, and faith. I felt like an idiot in the beginning but act like an idiot! The truth is only a real idiot would think you are an idiot for learning to dream again. It’s so worth all that you must go through to get access to that inner child who dreams, to tap into the power of that imagination.

It has been so many years, but I love how I can still access that attic so freely in my own imaginative world. And now when life gets hard, I create, I dream, I foster creativity. I write, I take pictures; I play. I become a child again; it took a long time for me and my sweet inner child to be okay with each other. But now I adore her. I adore all of her random, ridiculous, hyper, non-stop-talking self. I am her; she is me and I’m good with that.

Are my memories from that house, that time, that attic, correct? I honestly don’t know. Somehow the kid who took pictures of everything with a $10 camera didn't take a single picture of that attic. And I’m so thankful for that. Because of that, it lives vividly and freely in the world of my imagination, and I don’t have to change a thing about it. I often wonder if somewhere in my little girl mind I knew I would need that place in my mind not in a photograph. So, I chose not to take a picture. I will probably never know if that was true or not.

Find your attic and go have some fun with your inner child. That inner child secretly adores you and just wants you to dream and grow and play. When you grow that imagination, there is no limit to what you can accomplish. And if, like me, your childhood was complicated, create a new one. Go buy some toys, watch some cartoons, and have fun.

Go dream again or maybe for the first time. You might find out it not only frees you to make your dreams come true but others around you as well.

Happy imagination hunting!

Be honest, Be real, Be you

Bobbie De Leon

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