I have been thinking about my childhood, and whether I was ever really a child, or always just small version of my adult self – I don’t remember the whimsy that most people seem to ascribe to childhood. That doesn’t mean I was unhappy; it juts means I think I may have been a bit of a worried or serious person from very early on. Anyway, that’s quite serious, and I am here to write about play.
I had weird play techniques. Here are three things I distinctly remember “playing” or doing as a child:
I had a lot of paper dolls. I loved paper dolls. I kept all of my paper dolls in a cheap, plastic briefcase/suitcase-type device that I must have inherited from an older member of the family. I had paper dolls of pre- and post-Civil War fashions, of Princess Diana, of Barbie dolls, and various other fashion eras. This was a massive, jumbled collection that I would stash in this suitcase and put probably in the closet but possibly threw under my bed. (On another note, I distinctly remember the day that I cleared out the huge disaster zone under my bed. It took hours, and I threw out several bags of things.)
Anyway, I did not actually invent stories with these dolls. My “playing” was to take them out of their suitcase and then to organize it by matching up all the outfits with their doll and putting all the outfits in a little pile under the doll. I am not even sure I put the outfits on the doll. That was it. By the time I actually finished that process, of course I was bored with the dolls, and I put them back into the case.
I think this is represented in the fact that I continue to love making up organizational systems, but I don’t really care about following them. Why didn’t it occur to me to keep them organized – for example in folders or ziplock bags – so that I could actually play with them? It is not clear. I think my parents threw this suitcase away in one of our moves, and that annoys me. I would like to reorganize them again.
We had a set of children’s encyclopedias; I believe it was the World Book brand. Each volume had a theme: literature, science I guess, etc. (I believe that that this is where I learned the poem that says, “I eat my peas with honey / I’ve done it all my life…”, which I can still recite even though I cannot remember some things that happened last week.) Anyway, despite my interest in literature, I didn’t really use the encyclopedias for that. Instead, I would go to the part of the encyclopedia where there were numbers and alphabets of various languages. I would sit for hours and hours copying them down; tracing characters from Mandarin, or writing Spanish words.
The relevance to my current life is, perhaps, obvious.
During the summer, I would get really excited about the fact that we were going to Six Flags soon – there was some kind of scam where you got into Six Flags for free if your children had good grades or something, I think. We had an annual trip there, and although by the end you were exhausted, and your feet were disgusting and wrinkley from being in wet shoes all day after the water rides, I really really loved it. I really really love roller coasters, and scary rides; I actually remember being very small and riding them with my dad. I also had a whole dream sequence that involved roller coasters.
In preparation for this, I would be so incredibly excited about going to Six Flags that I basically could not think about anything else. Probably for weeks. During this time, I forced my brother D to participate in a one-on-one game show, modelled on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television (turns out that is a Canadian show, weird). I would ask him what I was most excited about, or what my favorite ride was. If he got the answer right, I would squirt him with the water hose. If he got the answer wrong, I would also squirt him with the water hose. Then we would play again. With the same questions. If this sounds cruel, remember that it was summer in Texas, so all of our outdoor activities involved the water hose. This went on most days, probably for weeks. I found it extremely enjoyable. I guess my brother was pretty glad when we finally went to Six Flags so he wouldn’t have to play that game.
This is more like play, but represents the fact that I can be bossy and perhaps unconcerned about other people’s entertainment (although I think I have improved on this since I played this game).
I still get really excited about things I’m looking forward to; I have 2 things in the next month I am excited about: moving to a new flat (cannot wait to nest and decorate, although I also realistically know I will probably not do these things) and going to Texas. I think about them a lot, and if I had a willing or indeed captive audience, I would probably sit them down and quiz them about what I’m most excited about. I would also squirt them with water, but this becomes increasingly less acceptable as we age.
Now you know too much about what I was like as a child. But it’s nice to be blogging again.