Do you still pretend like you did when you were a little kid? Think about it.
My sisters (I have four) and I spent many, many hours and days playing house when I was little. We dressed up in Mother’s “finery” and thought we were grown-ups. We acted as hostess to each other and served tea and crumpets or an entire meal — all pretend, of course. Those days were such happy days of play. I do believe I enjoy having guests now partly as a result of those pretend days. Those days made me see that having company is fun and not something to be dreaded or fussed over. My company feels the same way. Guests never come in white gloves and give our house the once-over. They are here to enjoy themselves, too. I have that kind of friends!
Every day was a new adventure. Some days we rode stick horses and were cowboys or rodeo performers. I remember when I was quite young and went to my first rodeo. Mexican Joe (the foreman for Pawnee Bill) roped six horses at one time, all going full speed ahead. He was a trick roper and the best I have ever seen. I was mesmerized! After that rodeo, we tried to be like him and the other performers we had seen. In our minds, we were quite good ... in fact great horsemen! We tried tricks on our ponies, but they never worked quite as well, as our ponies knew we were not supposed to be out of the saddle and would stop dead in their tracks. Our wonderful ponies were so gentle, they did our thinking for us. We could walk under them or behind them and they would never harm us in any way. In many ways, they were smarter than we were.
We made our kites out of newspapers and laths of wood and lots of glue, using string that we had saved and rolled into a ball all winter. Then, when those kites were dry and the rag tails tied on, we pretended to be Ben Franklin. We never did discover electricity though, because Mother sat her foot down and would not let us play outside when it was storming. On stormy days we played indoors and cut paper dolls or did artwork, or practiced piano or sang or wrote poems or baked.
One of the joys of my youth was to have a fresh elm whistle. We pretended to be great musicians and could have played in any band or performed at Carnegie Hall. The sound of those whistles was deafening, but oh, how we loved to have them to play with.
To have a whistle, we had to whittle it out of an elm branch, or talk Daddy into doing it for us. He would take out his pocket knife (always honed real sharp) and cut the twig about four inches long. Then, he would slip the bark off and make a notch and a groove and slip the bark back on. He always spit on the bark so it would slip on easily. It sounds gross now, but he could make a mighty fine whistle in just a jiffy. They lasted only one evening and then dried up, but tomorrow was another day!
We made stilts. It took much longer to make them out of a two-by-four than they lasted. We were not adept carpenters, so our work was pretty shoddy. When Daddy made them, they were sturdy and we played for weeks, stepping onto the stilts from the back porch. We felt like we were 10 feet tall and a clown in a parade or something.
Jim remembers making a scooter/skateboard out of his sister’s roller skates. He took the rollers off her usable skates and nailed them to a board and made the grandest scooter you ever saw. He had great fun all day, until his sister came home and discovered what he had done. That put an abrupt end to his pretending he had a grand vehicle. I don’t think she ever quite forgave him.
So much of our playtime was spent pretending. We did not have the toys that kids do now. We had to make our own fun. We were lucky to have one good toy at Christmastime, and the rest we improvised ourselves. We learned a lot by making our own enjoyment. We spent as much time, if not more, getting ready to play than we did playing. But the construction and planning was good practice, and educational, too. We became inventive with a few boards and nails and stuff. That was part of the fun.
Do kids invent things to play with now? Do they use rocks as cattle or sticks as fences?
Do they discover how to make a kite, or do they have to have a pattern or go buy one before they have the joy of running against the wind and getting the kite up? Do they climb trees and think they are in the wilderness of Africa? Do they make doll clothes and design for their dolls? Do they cut paper dolls out of catalogs and pretend they are attending a party? Do boys whittle or play with marbles?
I am truly convinced that we do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. Any cookie dough can be “play dough.” Any project can be an adventure.
We can laugh and sing and dance and be happy doing anything if we stay young at heart and continue to pretend.
My sisters and I made wonderful mud pies in our playhouse. We perfected the art when we got our own kitchens and those fun-filled days live on. I still take myself back to those early days when I make this REAL mud pie. It is rich but oh-so-good. Eat a light meal to leave room for dessert!
1⁄2 cup melted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (melted)
11⁄2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
3⁄4 cup chopped pecans
unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Beat all ingredients Together and pour in pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until top is set and crusty. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream. Ah ... remember!!!
Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.