They say whatever you “play” at being as a child is what you should be. Whether or not you become that is, of course, up to you. There were two very significant activities I would play, so when I hear that–whatever you play at being you should be–I feel that it’s true, and if you think hard enough on your own life, you’ll find it true as well.
Getting off the school bus Friday evenings was always the same. I would run inside the house, throw my backpack into my room, change into my tomboy clothes, and run next door to Granny Ben’s to play with Moe Moe. Moe Moe was my first cousin, my dad’s nephew, and Granny Ben had raised him after his parents died in two separate and isolated car accidents while he was a newborn. By all spiritual claims, Moe Moe was my brother, and every Friday evening we disappeared into our imaginations. Granny Ben went yard-sale-ing every Saturday with my Aunt Ellen, so Friday evenings were reserved for scouting locations. This bonding activity for them had existed since before I had, and I never questioned it or had any second thoughts when I passed them in the yard, sitting in their sea-foam green metal tulip chairs, sharpies in hand, circling tomorrow’s multiple destinations in search for junk-to-treasure. As usual, I would wave and disappear inside the screen door in search for my own treasure: pretend.
The great thing about Granny and Aunt Ellen’s yard sale-ing was that typically they came back with some god-awful porcelain figurine to add to the collection in my room (perfectly lined from shortest to tallest, hidden behind my toy box) and a ream of paper. I’m not exactly sure how this happened initially, but I remember the question, “Sissy, what would you like Granny to bring you from town?” Granny Ben asked every Friday evening in the small gap of time that I walked into the front gate to the screen door. My answer was always, “Paper and a Dr. Pepper.” I had a place, hidden from everyone except Moe Moe, where I would stash my paper. There was an extra bed in the guest bedroom where no one slept, and I would crawl underneath the quilt-covered bed, as far back as I could—which as a kid seemed to me like another kingdom underneath there—and stack my reams of paper.
Once the sound of the spring slammed the door shut, I would run into the guest bedroom and crawled under the bed into my paper kingdom. Moe Moe always knew where I was, so once I saw his feet underneath, I would emerge with a stack of blank sheets of paper. Pencils and pens in hand, he would be there waiting with a big, dumb smile. We would take our supplies into the screened-in porch, place our supplies on the extra-large boxed freezer, and pretend to write. Before either of us knew cursive, we would loop our hands like crazy, writing stories that no one but us could read. Eventually, we’d need to blow off steam from our deep writing, so we’d let the screen door slam behind us in our mad dash to my house to play Rocker Barbie. I had the slickest stage any kid could imagine, and that sure helped when I had my own fake, plastic people to orchestrate into rock stars.
It’s no wonder I became a writer, or that I work in the music industry. Pretend is powerful. Imagination is life’s way of guiding you into the best life has to offer. Playing is the world’s way of paving roads where there were none.
What did you play at being?