As soon as silence cut through the air, the music box was cranked and winded up again. Its seemingly eternal rhythm continued once more.
The pendulum enclosed within the box swung back and forth in synchrony with the lullaby. The steady beat gave way to a melody of chimes. Protected underneath the box’s glass surface, the patterns created by the letters “I” and “V” were fixed into a circle. They were merely embellishments that held no significance to my young observant eyes. The peculiarity of what filled the center did little to hide the emptiness of the circle’s face.
But the music box was a figment of my imagination. Instead, what stood before the eyes of a child who had yet to understand the meaning of time was simply an old grandfather clock. I had perceived it for what it meant to me rather than for what it actually was. I let my relentless imagination unravel and manifest itself.
Growing up, my twin sister and I always played together with our Webkinz. These moments captured the surreality of our imaginations, as well as our own comprehension of age. We would play out various scenarios with our stuffed animals, harboring their own unique personalities. As we played, we shifted between being infants, teenagers and adults. The behaviors we enacted stemmed from our perceptions of our surrounding environment. Watching television and watching the people closest to us became our first definition of maturity.
The surreality of my imagination, however, extended much further. When I was playing, I became a dragon or a pegasus soaring through the sky. My stacked Crayola markers became my lightsaber and sword while a pillow became my shield. A single bed sheet magically transformed into an extravagant gown, while a blanket sufficed as my lovely cape.
I was ageless, I was boundless, I was timeless.
I don’t think time is ever on our minds when we’re young; rather it’s taught and embedded into our daily lives. What we created and wielded as kids was a double-edged sword. Time brought us order and efficiency, but at the expense of learning about our own individuality and interests.
The time between sixth and twelfth grade became a daunting countdown to having to make one of the biggest decisions in my life: choosing the college I wished to go to. But what made the process harder was having to choose between my own interests and future with the limited time given to me. As expected, my future won, and my own curiosity became buried in the dark. The child who thought they could do all they wished faded into a fantasy, replaced by responsibility and the realities of living.
Or so I thought.
Now, as a second year undergraduate architecture student, I realize my inner child hasn’t been replaced; instead, I find I was simply forgetting them. I wasn’t conscious of this until the second semester of my first year. After running into many dead ends with a conceptual design project of a library, I began to ask myself why I decided to become an architect.
The answer was simple. I was passionate about architecture as a kid. Each building I walked into, whether it be a house or a skyrise, was an adventure waiting to be embarked upon. The spaces fueled my curiosity, their lighting making them more magical. The reason I’d struggled with my project was because I’d forgotten what architecture meant to me and what I wished for it to be for others; a timeless experience bounded by endless curiosity and exploration.
Being at home because of the pandemic, however, shifted the use of conventional building materials such as chipboard and basswood sticks to unconventional ones, like food, books and recycled scraps. I felt like a kid again as I used these for assignments that opened imaginative possibilities. Window blinds and their cords became floor levels and elevator shafts. The oval-shaped holes of the laundry basket were inspiration for apertures, while layered leaves transformed spaces through their reaction with light. A mirror reflecting within another mirror paralleled the continuum of space and lost time, while a pile of fortune cookies became a Frank Gehry-inspired form.
I believe our years as youths are moments we must never forget, because they are moments in which we perceived the world as endless. To remember our inner child is not to remember what we want to create, but what we could create.
Art by Amber Duan