The guests are finally arriving at my tea party, only they’re arriving in Hot Wheels and wielding light sabors as they make their way toward the colorful ceramic cups arranged on the floor. My older brother invites actions figures to my tea parties, but that’s normal. He clutches the figures by their skinny plastic legs, tilting them so that they hover cautiously over the teacups. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader share a plastic piece of toast. I sit on the carpet in my favorite pink dress, content to sip lukewarm sink water at my Star Wars tea party.
My mom offers commentary from the sidelines. “The Jedi have to go home early,” she announces, “because Han Solo ate a rotten egg.”
My brother and I giggle hysterically, and the guests race home via the hardwood floors that separate my brother’s room from my own. I take the dishes to the bathroom sink; the party was a great success.
The line for the river rapids ride at Disneyland is empty because, well, it’s nighttime and most of the world would prefer not to be soaking wet. This is our favorite ride, though. My brother and I race across the rickety wooden bridges, where, during the daytime, you’d have to stand for about a million hours while you waited in line. Now, the darkness has vanquished the crowds, the chatter, the little kids climbing over the railings while their parents try to keep them occupied. It’s as if a spell of uncharacteristic quiet has been cast over the queuing area; the telltale signs of joy are removed and yet the joy itself is not.
On the loading platform, only the ride workers and a few scattered guests are left. We’re sent off into the rapids and it’s better than it is during the day. The wind howls in the tunnels and the water hisses when it splashes into our raft.
When the ride ends, we’re back at the front of the line within seconds.
I’m home early from school today, and my brother decides that he wants to learn how to cook. Strawberry pasta, we decide, is a viable option for his first trial.
I sit by his laptop and rattle off the ingredients he needs; we blend strawberries in the food processor and strain the mixture with a colander. I run out to the backyard and pluck mint leaves for garnish.
My brother takes the first bite. “It’s edible,” he reports.
After a few more bites, we decide that it’s really not. We wash the sauce off of the remaining pasta, and okay, the taste of tart strawberries lingers, but we eat it anyway, nonetheless thrilled by our culinary efforts.
As a little sister, I live in a world more whimsical than fantasy: I live in a world of make-believe. In a fantasy world, Barbie dolls would sit around a porcelain table at my tea parties. In a fantasy world, strawberry pasta would be delightfully gourmet against all odds. It is a beautiful world, and sometimes, I wish I could live there.
But my make-believe world is one that only I can see. See, in my world of make believe, the strangest things are perfect because my brother says they are. It’s a kind of magic that only my older brother could teach me how to believe in, but one that is present all around me. It’s the same magic that fuels my passion for the ever-unsightly anglerfish and my tendency to obsess over the things that really shouldn’t matter. It’s a place that, unlike fantasy worlds, exists, because we don’t have to bend the truth: we just have to bend how we see it. My brother taught me to leave the fantasy world for the make believe, and I’ve never looked back.