We're driving down the road in our minivan, and Reese points out the dark clouds ahead. Storm clouds -- or any weather that remotely hints at a thunderstorm -- always catch her attention, revealing the twinge of nervousness she's harbored since our house was struck by lightning two years ago. But this time she didn't seem nervous, just thoughtful.
"What if," she began, "instead of raining rain, it rained apples. Apples would pour from the sky and they'd be all over the ground. Instead of thunderstorms, we'd have an applestorm."
Her eyes shined with the possibility. Apples! Falling from the sky!
"Would I be able to eat the apples?" she asked.
Joel answered her before I had the chance. "I tell you what, Reese. If it rains apples, you can eat as many as you want."
"Really? Yes!" She paused then added, "Thanks, Daddy."
For the next few minutes she looked out the window, quiet. I wondered if she was imagining how she'd harvest the apples, if she was pondering what she'd do if apples actually rained from the sky. Would she eat them until her stomach hurt? Throw them like baseballs? Attempt to stack them like blocks? Ask me to bake pies? Run outside with an umbrella and a helmet to soak up the experience?
I'm so glad it was Joel who answered her question. I was poised to answer with a less exciting response -- a literal response, an adult response, a response that would have highlighted the boring fact that apples are not a form of precipitation. It would have been true. It also would have stifled.
This experience reminded me of an old Calvin and Hobbes comic. Calvin approaches his mother and announces that he's decided to grow a beard -- a long beard like the guys in ZZ Top. His mother's response? "That's nice, Calvin. Go ahead and do that."
Hers was a perfect response, as was Joel's. The responses didn't promise the kids that they'd get what they hoped for, but they also didn't snuff out their creativity. Kids will learn soon enough that beards don't grow overnight and that apples will never rain from the sky. Why dampen their imaginations before they can dream about what would happen if they could?