If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
I first came across that poem in middle school, in the opening pages of Inkheart, a supposedly very good book that I never managed to read because I was so struck by the poem. Shel Silverstein wrote the little rhyme, and it originally appeared in his collection Where the Sidewalk Ends. I had that book, but I’m glad I stumbled across the poem the way that I did.
My family was at a water park, Sea World or Six Flags or Schlitterbahn or something, and I wasn’t exactly overjoyed. My dislike of water parks wasn’t the reason I had brought a book, (for I always had a book,) but it was the reason why I was achingly grateful when my mother allowed me to sit out on the family’s first go at the rides.
As they disappeared behind some water slide, I couldn’t believe my good luck: I got to sit in the corner with the bags! What most children would consider a punishment had me overjoyed. Quelle freak, but to each her own.
I pulled out my book and began a familiar ritual: I fanned its pages, taking in that new novel smell. I held it reverently in my hands, studying the front cover, then the back. I opened it slowly, read the title page, and then…
The poem hit me in a way similar to Stargirl, The Giver, and Peter Pan – I felt an encompassing magic that ignited my imagination and sent me into a candyland of dreams and words and feelings. It seemed that he was speaking directly to me, this spinner of tales. Because I was a dreamer. More than anything, perhaps, I was a dreamer – a wisher – a liar. A pretender.
I dreamed up stories in my closet, the door firmly shut, dolls spread out on the floor long past the age when I ‘should have’ given them up. I dreamed up rhymes, my face nearly touching my desk as my pen scribbled across the page. I got lost in books, imagining myself as Anne or Jo or Peter or Luna, dreamers with adventurous lives I longed for. In my head, I occupied those lands and bodies with the sort of longing and energy known only by the lonely. I pretended that I was someone else, somewhere else.
I held that book and read that poem and was lost in my head for the entire day. It is one of my strongest memories, somehow – touched by magic, embalmed in some flax-golden chest.
So much has changed since I was younger. I’m certainly less in my head now, but though those dreaming days of old were very much about escape, they were also wonderful. A blissful exercise of the imagination, which I miss. And now that I’m so happy in ‘the real world,’ I think that tripping through coat closets and falling down rabbit holes could take on new, even more magical meaning. It’s been an age since I’ve dabbled in fiction, but perhaps it’s time. I’m tickled by the idea of writing stories again, and it’s lovely to finally have someone to share them with. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a few star dusted pages to publish someday.
Back in the water park, as if to confirm my transport to another world, a young boy who looked just how I thought Severus Snape might have looked as a child was sitting at a table a few down from mine. Also alone, also reading. I watched him, wondering if he too were a dreamer who’d been granted his solitude in this water park. Wherever he is now, I hope his supply of magic beans hasn’t run out. And to all pretenders – I hope you never stop pretending.