Until we left Iowa in 1953, I didn't have a lot of kids around to play with. Both my siblings were grown and gone by the time I was two years old. So I learned early on to enjoy my own company, and since I had a rich imagination, that was never a problem.
By the time we moved to a small town in north Missouri where there were more neighbor kids, I was already set in my ways. Oh, when cousins and friends were around, I played with them, but most of the time I was fine on my own. I went to the theater in Eagleville almost every Saturday night, where most of the movies were B-grade westerns. For some reason, I always wanted the Indians to win when they fought with cowboys, although they seldom did. So when I was home, playing alone, I played Indians, with no cowboys in the picture at all. I played the parts of many Indians in one session: I would be the chief for awhile, then a squaw with a papoose, then a hunter pulling a travois I had lashed together myself with baling twine, then perhaps a medicine man. And believe it or not, all these characters had conversations with one another. Talk about multiple personalities!
Sometimes I made up some kind of nonsense that I thought sounded like a different language, but most of the time I would talk in the one-word method I saw "Indians" use on the movie screen. It was a lot the way Cora, the child I babysit, talks. "Come," she says when she wants my company. "Sit," she says as she pats the floor, wanting me to join her in play. "Build," she commands as she picks up the fence pieces of the Little People barn set. "Reach," she tells me when something is too high for her to get.
I wonder if my mom ever listened in on my conversations. Probably not, since all my playing was done outside. I do recall Grandma mentioning that she heard me talking to myself outside during one of my stays with her.
I don't recall talking to myself so much when my kids were growing up, although I often talked to whatever dog we had living with us in the house. I think talking to dogs and cats is just a safe way of talking to yourself without having people think you're crazy.
But these days it amazes me how much I catch myself talking out loud when nobody else is around. This morning in the garden I suddenly realized I had been carrying on a running conversation with various plants: "Well now, why are you so puny?" to one tomato plant; and, "How come everybody else has blooms and you don't?" "Whoa," I exclaimed to a beet whose bulbous root I was feeling by sticking my finger down in the soil (that sounds vulgar, doesn't it?)... you're about ready for a pot of borscht!"
The strange thing is that Cliff, who was raised in a large family and never used to talk to himself, is doing it now. Walking by the shop, I hear him almost daily, muttering to some project or other as he putters around.
Maybe it's just one more thing to chalk up to old age. Or maybe he picked it up from me. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.