I have spent a lot of time living in, building, and furnishing castles.
As a gung ho Jesus cheerleader, they were only accessible through miles and miles of winding roads, roads that felt like deja vu instead of progress. The stones were made of the compressed spines of the faithful, but there were beautiful beds to sleep in while you were there. The ceilings over these beds took my breath away night after night–all gold and purple and correct. Few people talked about the locked rooms, and so I didn’t really worry about them myself until I got restless one night and started to wander the halls. This didn’t last long before someone came to chase me back to my room and tuck me in with a platitude on the cheek. It is only now, years later, that I hear secondhand what may have been in them.
As a school teacher, the roads to the castle were deceptively straight and the stones were transparent. I was thrilled. I knocked out every wall I could find in order to make room for everyone. I banished the beds…and then seated them in cold, metal chairs that cut into the skin. Only the sensitive ever named the cutting feeling, the rest just bled to death slowly with their eyes once again fastened on the ceiling. I tried installing trap doors with paper covers, eight-and-a-half by eleven windows, anything to bring the attention horizontal, but they were too focused on the dragons crisscrossing the sky. I have to admit, those dragons were hard to ignore.
As a daughter the castle I built was quiet, with a deep dungeon for even more unspeakable things. As a friend, I bought a fleet of motorized golf carts to see to all my guests as quickly as possible, and I had fireworks going 24/7–not because I particularly cared for fireworks, but I’d heard they drew a crowd. With every new castle the buildings grew harder to find and inhabit.
And then one day, like all good plot twists, I lost my building permit. It was just gone. Without it, none of the contractors would show up to work and none of the real estate agents would sell me land. I checked my other pants pocket, and then I checked my other other pants pocket, and then I sat on the ground for a while to have a think. It was a confusing time for a lifetime builder.
Thankfully, I have never been alone. Furniture designers, carpenters, bricklayers, and all types of people who knew about structures that breathed, started to wander down the road to where I was sitting. I have mostly listened, sometimes argued, and then started again, slowly, to build small things–a dance, a supply of colored pencils, a crew, a way to listen to my father, a smile, an ability to slow down. I have heart rocking gratitude for these lessons, these teachers.
Tonight’s teacher was six, and surprise, I once again found myself building a castle. This castle had sharks in the moat, but they were nice sharks, and all had saddles so people could ride them in to come visit us. There was a dungeon “for people who annoy us,” but they were only allowed to be held for a week tops, the amount of time it takes for people to stop being annoying. And, they were held on the other side of the diamond waterfall so that they could have something nice to look at while they were calming the fuck down (my words, not his). This castle had a litter of newly hatched baby dragons, but no one worried when one of their enormous teeth fell out and pierced holes in the ceiling. It made it easier to see when it started raining interesting things like lima bean sandwiches. This castle had a café that served only ice cream and bacon (to which I stopped myself from saying “FUCK YES!!” out loud to). However, when the chef came in (his Mom) and served us pasta, he explained that it was important to occasionally have veggies as well to ward off the highly contagious dragon flu from our staff, friends, and villagers. This castle was full of friends for multiple parties, but we didn’t worry whether they liked it at our place or not. In fact, we left during one party to go down the road to a movie theater run by vampires. The people were all there when we got back.
This castle had room.
It had room enough for everything.
Nothing was turned away, nothing.
I am not as talented as he is, yet.
But I reject the notion that this talent grows only with children.
I clean off my old tools, I buy and accept new ones, and I start scouting the horizon for spaces.
Spaces for everything.