This I Believe
April 19, 2007
I believe in play. I believe in surrendering myself to imagination and sometimes, just plain silliness.
I was immersed in play as a child, in my inner world of intrigue. I played Cinderella as I reluctantly cleaned the living room. As a spy, I took careful notes on the comings and goings of my neighbors from my perch on a garage roof. When I felt misunderstood, or heroic, I pretended to be Lucy from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
But I grew up, and I put away childish things and notions. Sure, I played soccer and softball, but it was always play with a purpose – play to win, play to exercise, play to show I was part of the team.
Then I had children, and I thought I was playing with them, boardgames and puzzles and learning toys. But there were so many rules – taking turns, no breaking, no cheating – that I sometimes found the play more tiring than fun.
It was at the park one day that I had my epiphany. I had settled down on my usual bench, planning on a few pushes of the swing, then maybe a chat with another parent. But it just the two of us that chilly spring day, and my son turned to me hopefully, asking, “Mommy, will you play with me?”
And so I did, though perhaps reluctantly at first. And then, at the swings, after “push me, push me, high in the sky” I joined him on my own swing. Together we reached for the clouds. And I remembered, really remembered, that on a good swing, in between pumps you can lengthen your body and stretch out and it does feel flying. And we became birds, then airplanes, then tooth fairies!
Hurtling down the slide next, forwards, backwards, quickly, quickly. We were firemen, practicing leaving the station. Then, the fire itself appeared, raging behind the picnic table. We doused it with wood chips, saving deer, birds and even mosquitoes, according to my enthusiastic partner.
Our morning knew no bounds; we went to the great North and watched swim fish upstream, trying to avoid the bear scooping them up for lunch. (He waved to us, he was the nice kind.) There was even a dolphin sighting.
And when it was time to go home for milk and cookies, my son wrapped me in a hug, as delighted in me as I was in him. And I knew, at the end of that happy morning, that in surrendering to his imagination, I had rediscovered my own. So yes, Tinker Bell, I believe, I do believe… in bears at the park, in flying like fairies, and most of all, in play, and all its accompanying wonders.
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