Once upon a time, a creative girl married a creative boy. They were always imagining wonderful things – sharing ideas, playing silly games, asking big questions, and envisioning their future.

Along came a precious baby boy and he, too, had a giant imagination. “He’s just like us!” they exclaimed with relief. And together, the threesome lived happily together, playing make-believe whenever they could. There were costumes and art projects,  living room concerts and bath time adventures. In their colorful, fanciful world, anything was possible.

And then, to the family’s surprise and delight, another baby boy arrived from the stars. So sweet and giggly, they knew he was made of pure magic. He took in the world with big eyes and decided to bloom at his very own pace. Slowly but surely {much slower than most}, he learned to say words…and walk without wobbling…and not to eat rocks. With every small step, his family cheered. They sang songs! They jumped for joy! They hugged him tight! But deep in their hearts, in the back of their minds, the creative mama and the creative papa and the creative big brother worried. For their star boy did not seem to play the “right” way. He would copy a story, reciting the lines; or mimic a movie, acting out every scene; or shut out the world, deeply lost in his own. But never, not ever, did he play make-believe with his very own thoughts.

The boy’s team of helpers, real angels on earth, said lots of things – both crushing and kind – like “we just can’t be sure” and “we’ll do what we can.” The mama cried softly, the daddy shook his head; for the first time in forever, they were out of ideas. It was impossible for them to imagine that it was impossible for their child to imagine.

So, they decided to do the best thing they do: play anyway. Day after day, month after month, they played and he watched. They said silly things. They sang funny songs. They made pretty art. They made up tall tales. He giggled and clapped; he knew it looked fun. He studied their every move, like he could see the ideas swirling over their heads.

And then, one day last week, something bright caught his eye. A little light bulb, flickering above his own head. He reached up, his eyes wide, unsure what to do. “Mommy?” he said, seven times in a row. She waited for a question to form. A request for more milk? A plea to go outside? And that’s when he said it. Five glorious words from his four-year-old lips: “Can we play rocket ship?”

Her eyes snapped up from her paper. There, dangling above him, was a teeny tiny light bulb; a miracle in midair. He raced upstairs and she followed him close, desperate to keep the little bulb lit. She grabbed two pilot hats from the costume bin and placed one on his head, the other on hers. Then he grabbed at thin air, and pulled it over his chest. “Put on your seat belt,” he instructed, as his mama tried to catch her breath, tried to soak up the moment, tried to keep her heart from leaping out of her chest. She looked at him in disbelief as he held an invisible steering wheel, counting down numbers – 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. – and blasted them off into a new world. They went faster and faster, dodging meteors and catching stars. And when they landed back down, they collapsed into a pile of giggles.

She dabbed her eyes as she looked into his; foreheads touching, hearts thumping. And then she said the five words she’d been longing to say for so long: “You have a great imagination.”