Educator’s Corner: Childhood imagination, friend or foe?


Courtesy of Soraya Bilbao

The author, left, and her mom and siblings.

Soraya Bilbao, Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: Soraya Bilbao is an EL teacher who regularly contributes to this column space.

I consider myself a creative person. I attribute this to the many bedtime stories mom used to tell my sister and me when we were kids. Each night, we fell asleep dreaming of far away kingdoms, princesses, and enchanted forests.

Her stories fueled my childhood imagination, which for the most part, was a good thing. Unfortunately, at times, it landed me in compromising situations.

Growing up, one of my little sister’s most cherished childhood possessions, besides her Cabbage Patch doll, was her Barbie doll. I don’t remember which exact doll she had, but like a newly formed appendage of a starfish, Barbie was a permanent fixture in my sister’s hands.

One day, while my mom and sister went out to do some errands, I decided to surprise my sister by treating Barbie to a full day at the spa (a.k.a., our bathroom).

The idea of performing a complete makeover on Barbie pleased me, but the idea of surprising my sister pleased me even more. A random act of kindness — Oprah would be so proud!

So while mom and my sister were out and about, I got down to business.

A facial, a manicure and pedicure, a detoxifying seaweed wrap, and an aromatherapy massage. I locked myself in the bathroom and with tons of imagination, and heaps of soap and water in an overflowing bathroom sink. I envisioned Barbie enjoying some well-deserved time away from Ken.

Now, Barbie was ready for her last spa treatment; a wash and blow out.

I lathered up her hair with shampoo, washed, rinsed, and toweled it dry. I picked up her little Barbie doll hairbrush and turned on our human-sized blow dryer.

And here’s where things got somewhat off track.

As soon as I turned on the blow dryer, Barbie’s long golden tresses shriveled up to little burnt plastic balls of nothing.

Holy cannoli! What had I done!

“Oh no, oh no, oh no!” I cried to myself as I tried combing out her hair. This, of course, just led to detached blobs of burnt plastic littering the bathroom floor.

I tried snipping some of the clumps with a pair of scissors, hoping that I might be able to salvage something, anything! Unfortunately, this just resulted in the creation of a new type of Barbie doll: Burnt Hair and Bald Spots Barbie.

I was devastated. In my eagerness to do something nice for my sister, I had obliterated her prized doll.

I have no recollection of what happened after my mom and sister returned home, but I’m sure it involved many apologies, some serious explaining to mom, and no TV for a month.

On another occasion, while we were still living in Ecuador, my sister, cousin, and I attempted to climb down from the second story window of our house by way of a makeshift rope comprised of whatever article of clothing we happened to pull out from the closet and tie together.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I have an inkling that I may have been the one to suggest we engage in such leisurely activity. “Hey guys, enough of the coloring books. What do you say we repel down the side of the house?”

We had it all planned out. My cousin would hold on to one end of the so-called rope, which she had thrown over the second floor bedroom window. My sister would repel down the side of the house while my 7-year-old self would wait for her out on the backyard, just in case she needed catching.

We even conducted quality testing of the rope to ensure it would withstand my sister’s weight. We accomplished this by throwing a stuffed animal out the window.

Don’t forget, we were using our imagination. Therefore, to us, the toy didn’t just fall haplessly to the ground, but rather, climbed down safely.

I’m not making any of this up. This all really happened. Lucky for us, mom and grandma happened to walk in on us just as we were about to hoist my sister onto the windowsill.

I have no recollection of what happened after my mom and grandma caught us in the act, but I’m sure it involved many apologies, some serious explaining to mom, and no TV for a month.

On the bright side, while the application of my childhood imagination resulted in more groundings that I care to count, it did make for a wonderful childhood.

Thank you, Mom.