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1864 - Walker/Reynier family patriarch Jean Joseph Reynier, then 15, arrives in Sand Canyon from France; eventually homesteads 1,200 acres [story]
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The Good Long Road
| Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

JenniferFischerImagination, fantasy and make-believe are commonplace at our home. It’s rare for a day to go by without one of my sons transporting himself to a fantastical world of play and pretend.

On any given day my boys will most likely “be” Darth Vader-Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca (literally only speaking to me through grunts and growls), C-3PO or R2D2 … or perhaps a transformer, or Atreyu from “The Neverending Story” or Max from “Where the Wild Things Are.”

They easily transform themselves into these characters and are completely wrapped up in their imaginative, pretend play, with or without props or costumes.

However, with Halloween approaching and some hand-me-down costumes coming our way, along with new Darth Vader and Storm Trooper pajamas from Grandma, I see those transformations so fully. I see the magic of the costumes – masks, capes, outfits that allow them not only to feel the part (which they already did without the help of props or costuming), but also to truly look the part.

I see the spark in their eyes as they gaze on themselves in the mirror, now clearly as Vader or Bumblebee (the transformer). I see the shift that overcomes them as they pull up their hoods and their demeanors change as, in their minds, the hoods cloak them in make-believe.

JEN2I think, too, of our filmmaking work. We’ve worked with many talented actors who convincingly transport themselves to new places and become someone else completely. I see the actors do this well before the cameras roll and before their wardrobe and make-up are complete. And yet, I also notice the difference wardrobe makes.

After the transformations are complete, the actors really settle in. When the prison-guard shirt is on and the baton is in hand, the actor stands taller, firmer. When the dirty clothes are placed on an actor who, in the story, has been traveling while hidden beneath a bus for days, her body shrinks and her face becomes instantly more worn and tired as she sinks into her character.

And so it goes often in real life. Putting on my uniform, back when I was a waitress, was not that different from putting on a costume. I am naturally helpful and friendly, but with that uniform came an intensified version of that. I know many people have commented on the difference in an office on “casual Friday.” Shedding suits and ties for more comfortable clothing can open up the workplace and make it feel a little more friendly or less stiff.

How we perceive ourselves is important, and so is how others perceive us. Some of us put on “masks” every day. Perhaps we’re in deep emotional pain or are grieving a great loss or change in our lives – but this is not the face we show the world or wear to work or even show our friends.

Since becoming a mother, I know at times I’ve found myself struggling to find the balance of being “mom” and being “me” – not that I’m not me when I’m “Mommy”; I certainly am, but it’s a different me than the me I was before the kids. My costume, in a sense, is them, and it is different to be out in the world without them – on a date night or running errands while they are at school – rather than being in the world with them. Both are wonderful in their own ways.

JEN1I think this is the joy children find in costumes. My boys love being themselves. They are happy in their own skin, but they also love to get caught up in their imaginations, to get caught up in play, to put on that costume and become someone else – often someone they feel is more powerful than they are – strong, commanding, magical.

I realize this is what I do, too, when I become “mom.” I put on a costume that makes me more powerful and strong than I previously realized I could be. I can survive on amounts of sleep I previously would have thought impossible. I can clean up vomit without getting sick myself – something I could never do before. I can find the energy for one more story at bedtime or find a way to keep myself from crying even when I’m facing something that scares me.

But I also need to make sure I have time to be me – to let myself cry; to let myself embrace that sometimes I feel lost, overwhelmed, unsure; to accept that I am vulnerable despite being a strong mother. In fact, I am even more vulnerable now that I have those two magical beings in my life.

I also realize that one of my most important jobs as their mother is to encourage their imaginations, their creativity, their make-believe; for in that play they see the multiple possibilities of who they are and who they can be. And that is what I want for them.

I want them to know that the world is waiting for them. I want them to know they are powerful, that they can create change the world, that they can be whoever they want to be. I want them never to lose their ability to dream.

Happy Halloween.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

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