There’s a door in our house that goes nowhere.
It’s in our hallway, and usually leads to the study, but we’ve blocked it up with bookshelves on the other side.
It’s never used.
The other day, pelting through the front door after picking me up from the station, almost-four-year-old G. paused at the door and asked where it went, and what’s behind it.
Off the cuff, I told him that unicorns and dragons were behind that door.
Weeks later, on his birthday the other weekend, he declared that he’d like to visit the unicorns and dragons in ‘Magic Land’ (behind the door).
This presented something of a dilemma.
How does one fulfil the promise of Magic Land without having that one-on-one talk that would reveal that I had made it all up?
E., two-and-a-half years older, comes to the rescue by suggesting that they write to the people/animals in Magic Land, asking to visit.
She stop near me and whispered, “I know it’s made up, but it’s his birthday and I want to make it special.”
Off they went to write a sprawling felt-tipped letter to the denizens of Magic Land.
I stood there for a moment pondering how to create anything that was anywhere near a child’s vision of Magic Land with the things that we had handy.
In the end, I rapidly scribbled a letter from the folk of Magic Land to the two kids, apologising for being closed that day (they can’t go through…), and inviting them to camp out beside the mysterious door. I then ran around setting up a circus play-tent, cushions, blankets, and two bowls with a few chocolate squares in them (a welcome gift from the people behind the door). A torch was balanced inside the tent to make it glow.
While to me it looked higgledy-piggledy and not at all magical in the gloomy afternoon light, they were both happy to tiptoe in with satisfying wonder. G., his eyes wide, said in hushed tones, “They must’ve set it up for us, E. The people from Magic Land!”
E. glanced at me over her little brother’s head and grinned.
They spent over an hour in the tent, eating chocolate and reading the book they’d packed to take to Magic Land with them (a Dr Seuss, no less).
Little G. had a fabulous time, and came out of the whole thing hopeful that Magic Land would be open the next day.