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A letter to Nicholas

28/02/2018


The New World mall in Great King Street Dunedin is not normally the place of dreams, but for one boy last week it was. As I made my way to the supermarket to buy catfood for our bulimic Maine Coon, Floyd, I heard a harsh voice call out, "Nicholas, stop dreaming". Curiousity getting the better of me I peeked around the corner to identify the source of the instruction and to maybe glimpse the dreaming Nicholas. The voice came from a woman who had clearly given up dreaming a long time ago, an exhausted overweight mum standing at the threshold of Postie Plus - the place where sartorial dreams go to die. A few seconds later emerged Nicholas, a pre-teen in schoolboy grey, from Music Planet's new store in the Great King Street Mall. Now if there is anywhere to dream in the Great King Street Mall it is Music Planet. What 12-year old boy could possibly enter that heavenly place and not dream of being a rock star?

When I was a kid I too was described as, or rather disparaged for, being a day-dreamer as if it were some kind of childhood disability that one eventually grows out of, like asthma. Do parents discourage their children from dreaming because their own dreams have been consigned to the past, along with shorty pajamas and lego? Or do they simply lack imagination? Why do adults whose own dreams have been dashed, insist that no-one else should dream? Is it because they cannot bear their children to suffer the same disappointment? Disappointment is a fact of life, and so is dreaming - they don't always have to go together. As long as we keep dreaming we are imagining a better future. Whether this future is eventually achievable or not is beside the point; the point is the dream.

I do feel for kids. On the one hand the education system expects them to be have aspirations - without really showing them how to make them come about, while the economic system denies too many kids the resources they need to become happy healthy adults. In the meantime at home they are told to get their heads out of the clouds, buckle down, get real, and stop dreaming.

Nicholas has become for me the standard bearer of childhood dreams, an obedient boy who was ordered out of a music store only to be dragged around Postie Plus. Nicholas, if you are out there, don't stop dreaming. Be who you want to be even if it's only in your imagination, until you are old enough to start making your dreams happen. And to Nicholas's mum - learn to dream again, even if it is to dream that one day your son could be a rock star.