Saturday, January 05, 2019

Making believe

I was two years old when my sister got married.  From then on, our household consisted of Mother, Daddy, and me.  We lived in rural areas, so there weren’t a lot of children around, except when we lived in the tiny “town” of Guss:  There, the people across the road had kids I sometimes played with.  Most times, though, I was left to my own devices.  I passed time reading (lots of Bobbsey Twins books) and pretending.  Oh, yes... I pretended a LOT!

I was thinking yesterday of all the ways I used my imagination as a child.  My favorite fantasy, as I’ve often mentioned here, was being an Indian.  I surrounded myself with a whole (invisible) tribe, and often switched from one role to another... from chief to medicine man to squaw with a papoose on her back.  I recall around the time I was eleven when we lived on Glen Wyant’s farm, I was wandering around in the woods when it occurred to me that an Indian living in the woods would surely have a campfire.  So I went to the house, got some matches, and returned to the woods.  I found  a nice, secluded, low spot sheltered from the wind, gathered dry leaves and sticks, and made myself a lovely fire.  Looking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t catch the woods on fire.  Something about the smell of a campfire burning enhanced the whole experience.  Several years ago when I had my cabin in the woods here, it occurred to me I might be trying to replicate my happy childhood experiences of playing Indian.  

One time at the one-room country school in Iowa, probably when I was five or six, we’d had a big snow.  At recess, we children went out to play.  Another little girl and I decided to burrow a cave into the tall drift, and I guess I kept saying, “Let’s play like we are cowboys”, or “Let’s play like this is our house.”  Apparently I was using the term a little too often, because I recall the little girl saying in a sarcastic way, “Play like.  Play like.  That’s all you ever say.”
Isn’t it strange, although I don’t remember the girl’s name, that I still feel humiliated when I think of this?  Anyhow, I believe I stopped using the words “Play like” from then on.  This may have been the same little girl who had a birthday party the following spring:  There were hollyhocks growing along the lane to her house, so we decided to make hollyhock dolls:  This may have been the day I realized what a loudmouth I am, because as we fashioned our dolls, we chattered away; the birthday girl said, “You are talking so loud I can’t hear myself think!”  So I stopped conversing and kept my mouth shut for the rest of the party.

I never could take constructive criticism very well.  Just ask Cliff.

I would spend a week at Grandma’s house every summer.  Her front yard had a steep bank slanting steeply down to the road.  One day I saw an airplane flying overhead and got thinking what a wonderful thing it would be to fly.  I ran several yards back from that bank, turned, and ran as fast as I could toward the road, then jumped off the bank in hopes it would feel like flying.  It didn’t, not at all (after all, I only had about one or two seconds in the air), but I tried several times more to catch the feeling of flying by jumping from the top of that incline.  

I often imagined I was riding a horse when I was walking down the road alone at Grandma’s.  I’d sort of jog down the gravel road, trying to get the feel of a horse trotting, my right hand posed in front of me as though holding reins.  I could almost feel like I was riding a horse.  I wandered in the woods at Grandma’s and of course, at Glen Wyant’s farm when we lived there.  When it was just me, I did a lot of making believe.

At some point when we lived in Eagleville, I read a book about the circus, and for a few months I was fascinated with the idea of “running away to join the circus”.  That’s when I invented one of my most “real” pretend games.  I gathered cardboard boxes and cut “bars” in the sides to make cages.  I caught one of Mother’s laying hens and put her in one cage, pronouncing her an ostrich.  I put the cat in another cage and turned her magically into a lion (the lion kept escaping).  I had a pet pigeon Daddy’s Uncle Bill had given me to raise, so I made a cage for him.  I let him remain a pigeon, as I recall.  

We moved to Kansas City when I was in the middle of sixth grade.  I was devastated, leaving the Wyant farm.  I guess that’s when I stopped pretending so much, since there were people around all the time.  The only place I found solitude was on the river side of the levee, which was right across the street from our first apartment in Harlem.  If I wanted to be alone, it was the perfect place, and there were plenty of big rocks to sit on and dream.

That’s it for today.



Adirondackcountrygal said...

I had a vivid fantasy life as a child too. I don't write a lot in my blog about my childhood. It was rough and there are people in my family who frown on "airing dirty laundry". They think if I write negative things, it is a reflection of them.

Calfkeeper said...

My brother was 10 yrs older than I was, my sister 7 years older. I did quite a bit of pretending when I was little myself.

The Feminine Energy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Feminine Energy said...

We have so much in common, Donna! I loved reading this account of some memories when you were little. I was two years old too, when my oldest brother got married. My brother & his new bride moved into their first house, when they got back from their honeymoon, and my sister-in-law made good friends with the neighbor woman across the street. That woman was destined to become my mother-in-law 17 years later. :-) I loved to read Bobbsey Twins books too, along with Nancy Drew of course. I wish times were the same now, for children, as they were back then for us. I think the world would be a better place and children would have more fun. Love, Andrea xoxo

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Imagination is a wonderful thing!

Margaret said...

I had a vivid imagination as a child too and used to play all kinds of pretend games. How do you think your experiences have shaped you? I was more about Nancy Drew from 2nd grade on; I guess I developed my love of mysteries from that series!