I Can Fly
by Marilyn A. Kinsella, 2001
I have a dream. Oh, it’s a very common dream. Many people have this dream. It’s a dream that I’m flying. I’m not soaring over mountaintops…more like gliding. It is so… effortless; I’m always amazed that I never thought of doing it before. “I can fly!…Wow!”
Where did that dream come from? Well, I think it came from a Little Golden Book that I read when I was a child. It was called, appropriately enough…”I Can Fly.” It was written by the famous children’s author Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Mary Blair. For many years I thought about that book. I remembered the pictures mostly. There was little dark-haired girl who flies in and out of her imagination. The look of pure joy on her face was what compelled me to read it over and over. In the very first picture she is lying down amongst a bed of flowers. Butterflies, birds, and bunnies surround her as her imagination begins to soar.
The second picture had her standing on a swing. I can almost feel the wind on her face as she says, “A bird can fly so can I.” I remember the swing in the backyard of my old house. It was a long greasy rope hung over the giant elm tree. Standing on the wooden seat of the swing, I’d pump higher and higher. I could see new vistas – the top the garage, the insides of bird nests, and the tops of trees across the field. I was free! I could fly!
During the third page her imagination has taken her to a farm. She’s leaning over a fence as she and a cow are harmonizing. She says, “A cow can moo I can too.” What child doesn’t love to make animal sounds? “Old MacDonald Has a Farm” was always one of my favorites. I could “moo- moo here; moo- moo there, Here a moo there a moo everywhere a moo-moo.” And to tell you the truth when I tell stories, I love the sounds of the animals as they harmonize in my stories.
The next picture has the little girl kicking a ball into the air as her little dog begs to retrieve it. She says, “I’m merrier than a terrier.” Ah, the exuberance of a youthful moment! I had many of those as a child. Alas, most of them are stored away in my memory box. If only I had the key to those stories.
Suddenly, the little girl is in a lake paddling across with an inner tube around her middle. She meets up with a fish, “Swish! I’m a fish.” When I was in third grade we had a language series called “Voyages in English.” I never really cared much for the mechanics of English, and I still struggle with conjugating verbs and dangling participles. But in the third grade book, at the end of some chapters, were little playettes. Mrs. Fischer, our teacher, sometimes let us act out those plays. Once there was a little story about a fish and a turtle. Buddy Barcum was the turtle and I was the fish. Swish! I found a long, white silk scarf. When I put it around my neck and draped it around my arms…”I’m a fish.” Even today the simplest thing can make my imagination work on overload. Give me a hat, a walking stick, a purple pebble and suddenly I’m a mermaid diving into the depths of the imaginary sea.
The next page our little girl is dressed in a white frilly-frally dress. Her hair is held together with a pink bow on top of her head. She is looking at a chicken dressed in frilly white feathers and a pink cockscomb on its head…”Pick, pick, pick…I’m a little chick.” I’ve always loved dress-up. Pick up a boa; pick up a scrap of sparkly material; pick up a feathered hat and suddenly I become a whole new character.
Next page the little girl is hiding under a table. She peeks out from under the tablecloth as a little gray mouse peeks out from a mouse hole. “My house is like a mouse’s.” Ah, yes, I had my hidey-holes. My favorite, however, was a stand of sumac trees in the far corner of the field behind my house. Somehow it had grown into four little rooms with the long sumac leaves providing a roof over my head. I could see out – but others could not see in. It was my house; my security when bad things happened. I escaped to its welcoming arms and let the dappled light that filtered down soothe my childish pain. Even today, when I walk, I seek a path with dappled light. Something heals as I walk – the light and dark becoming equally important to my journey.
Next the little girl is at the beach. She is covered with sand. Her arms and legs poke out of the sand as she looks out from under a wide brim hat. She spots a clam at her feet. “A clam is what I am.” I too have learned to become the observer. Sometimes it’s good to go unnoticed; to watch the parade of people pass you by. By clamming up I’m able to see what’s going on with a new perspective. That’s a pretty good thing to do when you tell stories – clam up, watch, listen.
In the next page the little girl has piled colorful pillows on her back. She looks suspiciously like the camel on the opposite page. “Bump, bump, bump I’m a camel with a hump.” Being a storyteller means to carry excess baggage wherever I go. Some of the baggage is a delight to tote around, but others weigh me down. They become a burden. But, you know, without a few burdens here and there…I wouldn’t grow and become a stronger teller of tales.
I love the next picture. The little girl is on her tippy-toes. Her cat is following behind…”Pitter pitter pat I can walk like a cat.” Over the years I’ve learned to walk the walk and talk the talk. By a mere slumping of the shoulders or a swelling of the chest, I make my characters that live within come out for a visit. Pitter-patter, hunker-cha, chit-chat – Imagine that!
Now it’s nighttime and our little girl is sitting by the window. Outside is a family of owls. “Howl, howl, howl I’m a old screech owl.” Yes, I have such a window. Outside are the bird feeders. During the day the Cardinals, Blue Jays and yellow Finches come calling. But, at night, when the windows are open, I hear the far-off cry of the barn owl across the way. Whoo- whoo- whoooo. I can’t help but answer back. Whoo, whoo, whoooo. For I have learned “animal-speak” becoming one with the sounds of the night. Now, if only I understood what I was saying.
Finally our little girl is in bed. The sights, the sounds of the day surround her as she is about ready to let her day become the stuff of her dreams, “Gubble, gubble, gubble I’m a mubble in a pubble. I can play I’m anything that’s anything. That’s MY way.”
That’s exactly what I’ve become – a mubble in a pubble. A delicious mix of sights and sounds; feelings and emotions that blankets me at night and comes pouring out in the form of story with the morning’s light. And when it does…that’s when I fly. It wasn’t a dream after all…I can fly!