A Night of Make-Believe

Close your eyes.

Wait a minute! What am I thinking? That won’t work. How are you going to read the rest of this experiment if your eyes are closed? Let’s start again.

Make-believe that your eyes are closed.

That’s better! And it is a perfectly acceptable preamble to what’s coming next. Because from this point on, we are only dealing with the imaginary.

I want you to imagine that you are something that you are not. Make-believe you are a novelist. You could be a renowned surgeon. Perhaps a famous celebrity. Maybe just a grandpa.

How does that make you feel? Are you happier in your make-believe world?

You should be. Make-believers, by inference if not definition, are happy people. Rarely do make-believers ever imagine themselves worse off than they already are. Make-believers get to choose their own destiny; steer their own course.

I picked the term “make-believe” intentionally. I could easily use “fantasize” or “pretend.” However, those terms are impersonal. They don’t evoke emotion or sentiment. You can fantasize that the world is a better place. You can pretend that you are an honest businessperson. Neither of those plots tell me anything about YOU!

The make-believe world is your world? We are only in it with you if you invite us.

My Mother used the term make-believe almost exclusively. I was reminded of this the other evening. It was the beginnings of a beautiful summer night, and the bright flecks of starlight were just assembling into constellations above.

In the summertime, on nights when the temperature is warmish, and the night air dew-less and clean, she would sit with her two sons on the beautiful wrap-around deck that Dad built onto the second story of our brick ranch-style house. Enwrapped by a palisade of mature maple, birch and sweet gum trees, we’d sit in the dark, peering through the canopy at the glittering light above.

“Close your eyes,” she’d say to her boys. “Just listen. Tell me what you hear.”

In the distance, a train’s airhorn punctured the darkness. On a normal night, its blaring signature goes unnoticed in a visual world, too far away to matter to the eyes; an imperceptible melody lost under the din of a family readying for bed, concluding its day.

Tonight, however, it is unmissable. “I hear a train!” my brother says.

“Now make believe that you are on that train,” Mother said. “Where are you going?”

“The mountains,” my brother says. “Colorado”.

We listen until the train, its horn and its signature clackity-clack, perishes into the night.

“What do you hear, now?” Mother asks.

“I hear crickets and frogs . . . and Jenny Lake yelling at her Mother!” I say, and we all laugh. Mother plays this game again. And again. And one more time, until our happy minds are full of glorious dreams of where we may go, and of what we may become.

There are sweet mysteries in the night.

Our Mother taught us a simple game, really. Yet, its lesson is profound. We too often are restrained by the limits of our own convention –– only believing what we can see, or feel, or taste, or smell in that moment.

But if we listen . . . ah, we can hear the sounds of make-believe, and therein lies all possibilities of our lifetimes.

Now, close your eyes.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media