There’ll be a splodge of milk on the table and one of my daughters will point to it and say, ‘Look Mummy, a horse!’ (or a fairy, or a flower) And sure enough, if I look closely, I can usually see that if I am on a certain angle with my eyes squinted and my imagination in overdrive, then the splodge of milk on the table does have some horse-like features. My husband will usually shrug his shoulders or shake his head but he’s an investment fund manager and not expected to have any imagination. Pieces of popcorn can be all kinds of things, and often it’s a competition between the two girls to see whose popcorn could reasonably be believed to be the most outlandish thing. Poodles are everywhere in popcorn apparently, and lions too, but it’s extremely rare to spot anything more streamlined, such as a goldfish.
So I had laughed along with the girls as they discovered all kinds of objects in the most unexpected places and only became aware of the fact that my son – the baby – was following in their footsteps when he began driving his sandwich around his plate the other day, saying, ‘Truck!’ I nodded and laughed and agreed that it could certainly be a truck, albeit one with no wheels and was then struck dumb when he picked up a piece of ham, placed it on his knee and said, ‘Bandaid!’ Because yes, when he put it on his knee, it did actually look like a bandaid. But who would ever have thought to look for bandaids in their ham?
It made me realise that as an adult, I often forget to look for the mystery in things, to see what’s below the surface, the bandaid lurking in an ordinary piece of ham. Because I’m busy and rushing and don’t have time and all the million other excuses that I use everyday make myself feel better about what I might be missing. Books and stories and the writing of them rely so much on imagination, on seeing the possibilities that can be found if only you squint a bit and turn your head to one side and flip your character upside down and your plot inside out. So here’s to taking a little extra time every day to really stop and look at things, to imagine something more extraordinary into the everydayness of a ham sandwich.