Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Play is Child's Work

Another influence in imagination and the storytelling process is playing.  We seemed to play so much when I was growing up and I always found more pleasure in it when older children participated. 
I loved to play with little plastic animals.  It was simply called "Animals"  I could do this by myself and I did a lot, but one cousin 5 years older than I, just brought so much life to this activity.  We carried our animals in boxes and when we visited we played on her porch or mine.  Mutilating lightning bugs was so much more creative when she was around as well.  We were Egyptian princesses with glowing jewels.  I know it sounds cruel but it just seemed natural to use that luminescence.
Down the street from me was a huge vacant lot.  It was our Indian village, and yes, now I have to say Native American.  Two pine trees' branches came to the ground, but were hallow by the trunk, and really seemed like teepees.  Another bush also grew in an enclosed circle and was our wigwam.  A tiny little bricked ditch was the river.  It was expansive and felt so like a village.  We all played there.  One evening two of the older girls in the neighborhood joined us with some old fashioned rolled oats they must have stolen from their kitchen and they conducted a very mystical ceremony, putting oats on our foreheads and then we had to eat some.  I wonder how they explained that to their mothers.
As well as playing with the plastic animals, I was often an animal.  My brother hunted and often I had the squirrel tail or rabbit tail to use as a prop.  If they weren't available, I use a hat tie to make a tail for me.  Our house was great with 2 stairways, that could be rabbit holes.  Or the blue-green wall to wall carpeting downstairs was a fantastic lake with the curvy stairs the waterfalls.
The public pool provided an arena to play mermaids.  That is all we had to say to each other, my one friend and I when we wanted to play- Mermaids, Princesses, Animals.  We named all our imaginary games with one word then we would be in that world.  Her sidewalk became the streets of London where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys met Oliver Twist, and Fagan's gang.  My friend was always Wendy, being kidnapped.
Our camper van became a cover wagon and we sang our way out West driving around the Shenango Valley.  Or I wore a Prairie dress and a sunbonnet my mother bought me, with my sister's old go-go boots from her time as a Morgan drive in waitress, and I was Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I played with dolls until 6th grade on my way to becoming a sophisticated Jr. Higher. The writing took over the imagination outlet as I bribed my English teacher to allow me just to write stories instead of those boring drill sentences.  She loved my writing so she obliged.  Play had become growing up.
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