- Cullman, Alabama


December 27, 2012

SOUTHERN STYLE: Fireflies and Flights of Fancy

My favorite song is “Fireflies” by Faith Hill. It was written by a housewife, and mother of five by the name of Lori McKenna. She and I are kindred spirits, dreamers of dreams. Although she writes songs, not columns, we share the same flights of fancy which form words with wings.

With we dreamers, nothing is impossible, unattainable and impractical. Wonder can be found in the smallest of ordinary things — like fireflies.

 Now, I know that this sounds improbable and impractical to all you fact-oriented people out there. But actually, dreamers are just as necessary as the mathematicians, lawyers and bankers who deal in the practical world.

Without dreamers there would be no fairy tales, no Harry Potter, no Wizard of Oz. There would be no artists, no poets, no songwriters, clothes designers, no interior decorators, and no inventors. Without the imagination of dreamers, there would be no Sistine Chapel, no Mona Lisa, no Snoopy.

Imagination once formed the notes in the mind of a deaf composer who wrote symphonies which continue to bring tears to the eyes of grown men.

Imagination caused a little boy from Illinois to conceive of a place where grownups and children of all ages can let their imaginations run wild in the company of a mouse whose face is recognized worldwide, and a fairy named Tinkerbell.

Sure, it takes engineers, architects, and scientists to make all the correct calculations for buildings, professors to teach languages, and chemists to create formulas for medicines. Those things could have never gotten off paper without all these sciences. But think for a moment…who put them on paper? Who dreamed of towers in the sky and the faces of the cherubs, and who in the world came up with the color chartreuse?

 My husband, who is ever practical, never believes it will snow; never thinks people will overcome adversity, and won’t ever admit to having tender feelings for three-legged dogs. But, he can fix almost anything that’s broken.

My mother, however, was an artist. She taught me to dream. We both saw the world awash in colors that were a bit brighter, heard words that sounded just a little softer, and loved with all our hearts.

She taught me to let my imagination soar and think for myself, not always practically, no, we both made plenty of mistakes along our paths in life, but I believe that we cultivated and passed along to others our ability to dream of sweeter things. We were able to create spaces in our minds where there was happiness in adversity, fond memories, magic moments. Pockets of time where there are no wars, no diseases, no hate, no suffering.

Without imagination, there would be no one who looks through the lens of a camera and sees the magical possibilities that lay behind an old door. No little girls dressed in rags who dream of being Cinderella and grow up to sing country songs and have amusement parks named after them. There’d be no boys who write of scarecrows without brains, and no children who quote “Once upon a time…” There would be no shining eyes this time of year as the parade passes by, no wonder in the sound of bells in the distance, and no laughter at little men dressed in stripped stockings and pointy hats.

Imagination is the most powerful tool of the human brain. It spurs the engineers of the world to keep improving our lives and doctors to keep striving to do the impossible, like replacing a human leg, arm or heart. Imagination sent men to the moon and allows people to live among the stars.

 And most of it started with dreamers of pixie dust, Peter Pan, fireflies, and the magical season that is upon us now.

Thank Heaven for mothers who read fairy tales to their children, giving them the gift of imagination, opening doors for them to write other fairy tales, some of which come true!

Merry Christmas to all you dreamers out there, and to you, Lori McKenna, lover of fireflies, wherever you are tonight. May you continue to spread your words far and wide and cause others to strive harder to achieve the impossible, climb higher, and to dream greater dreams!


This column is dedicated to my mother, Isabell Cammack Young, who handed me the keys to the kingdom when she taught me to read, and encouraged my imagination every day of her life. —Loretta Y. Gillespie

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