Many kids have a secret world they keep in their heads. It often starts very early, then slowly fades from interest as they grow up.
Miles’ was called, at first, “Nowhereland,” but at some point the name suddenly changed to “Ziso.” Not sure why. The Universe of Ziso was the topic of so many family walks and car trips throughout his early childhood – we’d pass the time by asking him “What are schools like in Ziso?” or “What do people eat in Ziso?,” and he would either make things up on the spot or pull things out of this vast internal encyclopedia he had constructed in his mind. To him, Ziso was a web of interconnected factoids, characters, strange physics, animals, personalities, jobs, edibles, transportation networks, and relationships.
Miles had a job in Ziso – as head archivist at an organization that studied a long-past Zisoan war. And he had a son in Ziso (but no wife). His son’s name was Uber (whom he himself had birthed!). Uber was just a couple years older than real-world Miles, making him a perfect alternate-universe analog for himself. Zisoans only eat goo puff balls, which are large orbs that grow on trees, filled with a gooey protein. Zisoans only go to school when they feel like it. Zisoans have everything they need and don’t use money.
At some point, as he was becoming comfortable with reading and writing, we discovered the Airbender Wiki, and he’d spend hours poring through the Avatar universe. Then, one day, he asked me if he could have his own wiki, so he could do the same for Ziso. We set up http://zisouniverse.wikispaces.com/, I showed him how to create connected pages, and he went nuts on it. He was only in 3rd grade at the time, and his writing skills were just developing. He couldn’t yet touch type, so it was very slow going. And of course he was prone to going off on unrelated tangents. In retrospect, I think that the whole thing was fully formed in his brain, but he just wasn’t prepared for how long it would take to execute.
Occasionally he’d add scans of hand-drawn pictures to illustrate his pages. I always thought those were the best pages on the site, and encouraged him to do more. He added a lot of placeholders for additional illustrations, but somehow they never made it online. I still feel like his Zoology page, chock full of drawings, is one of the best on the site.
Zisoans also had poetry:
Orange is the color of poetry, the color of the sun, the color of the frame on my friend’s painting, the color of the laces on my least favorite shoes, the color of the cheese I like.
Black is the color of poetry, the color of my teacher’s glasses, the color of the hands in the clock, the color of the void, the color of my mom’s old-fashioned camera.
Lime is the color of poetry, the color of some kid’s backpack, the color of the creeper, the color of limes, the color of sugar plants.
But of course, the inevitable happened, and he slowly stopped thinking and talking about Ziso. Over time, the real-ness of friends, Minecraft, pogo sticking, and his pet snake became more important to him than his imaginary world. That’s a healthy evolution, of course, but it also meant he stopped working on the wiki. Tried several times to encourage him to work on it this summer, to no avail. I think it’s pretty much stuck in time at this point.
If you explore, you’ll find the juiciest pages near the bottom of the homepage – the organization is very random, and made sense only to him. A lot of it he was just sketching out – creating skeleton pages to fill in later. Only later never happened.
I think the best pages are in the “Super Pages” section. A few of my other favorites:
Watching a kid grow up is so bittersweet. Every wonderful step in their personal evolution also means saying goodbye to something awesome from earlier childhood. We’re proud to see him move on to middle school, but dang, we loved having Ziso around.