Recently, a family friend visited our home with his son, Jonathan. The seven-year-old had with him a toy airplane still in its box. He was disappointed to find the plane different from the one in the illustration. It was about 18 inches long and was blue and white in color. Just a few minutes into our conversation I couldn’t help but notice he was obsessed with airplanes. He used this toy to tell me airplane-crash-landing stories. Each one was more fantastical than the last and drew further away from reality.
A plane was about to land but another plane was already in the runway. It couldn’t land on that particular spot assigned to it. There was a large trampoline nearby, so the pilot aimed for it. The plane fell nose down onto the trampoline, then bounced back into the air and landed safely in front of the other plane.
A plane left Heathrow airport and, as it was nearing its destination, the wheels had fallen off (or something of the sort). In order for it to land safely, the control tower back in England threw a set of wheels that attached itself to the plane. The plane was able to land safely and everyone was happy.
A plane was headed to the South Pole, carrying people from every country in it. During the flight both the pilot and the co-pilot needed to use the toilet. There was no one to fly the plane. The doors of the toilets were stuck and couldn’t be opened. Jonathan, who was on the plane, positioned himself in the area between the two toilets and yanked the doors right off the hinges with his strong, muscular arms. The pilot and the co-pilot were both hurt in the process, leaving no one to fly the plane. So he and his father had to fly the plane. Unfortunately, he did not know how. He saw a button that had DO NOT PUSH written above it. He pressed it and it enabled him to land safely. He was everyone’s hero in the end. When I asked if he got a medal for his heroism, he answered: “No, I got a superhero suit.”
A gigantic airplane that was as “tall as the sky and as wide as a house” was taking off from the South Pole. I was not told its destination—only that every single person on earth was in it. During the flight everyone on the plane needed to use the toilet. That left no one to fly the plane. That is, no one except him. Once again, he and his father had to fly the plane. As he still did not know how to fly a plane, he pressed “the button that had never been pressed before” and was able to land safely, entitling him to yet another superhero suit. But the chipmunks (somehow there were sentient chipmunks in the plane), who had told him not to press that button, were furious with him for not having listened to them. In his own words, they were “angrier than an Australian dinosaur.”
He returned the next day and told me a story about an invisible plane that only became visible when you speak this word: Abacazoo. He couldn’t finish the story, but promised to finish it when he visits next.
It was hilarious and fascinating, and I would never be able to forget it. It had been so long since I was able to live in a seven-year-old’s imagination and try to comprehend in vain how his mind works. His story could only be real in his little mind because his world is not governed by scientific laws.
To a grownup, his stories are nothing but nonsense. Besides being improbable, they are also impossible. If Jonathan had known a trampoline would be shattered under the weight of a plane, his story could only end with the plane crashing and people dying. He simply chose to believe in what gives him the most pleasure.
Anything is possible in a child’s imagination. It’s a shame I had to grow up.