What is Simple is What is Essential

Elizabeth - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on August 3, 2008

I believe that what is simple is what is essential.

My brother and I were cracking up yesterday, reminiscing about our childhood and how we would come up with pseudonyms when we played. He and our neighbor-friend were not “Ice” or “Princess” or anything else that was mystical or powerful-sounding. Their pseudonyms were “Mark” and “Dana.” And they didn’t pretend to be superheroes, but instead, office workers.

My sister and I also used pseudonyms when we played “dress up.” We were, drum roll please… “Susan and Sharon.” I was “Susan”, which I thought sounded a bit sassy. And my sister was the more practical “Sharon.” And we didn’t pretend to scale mountains or slay dragons. Since my sister and I were both prone to getting our hair chopped boy-short, thanks to our ever-practical mom, my sister and I fantasized about simply, having girly hair.

We donned pajama pants on our heads as makeshift long hair. I’d go knock on her door. “Wanna play ‘Susan and Sharon?”‘ I’d ask. “Okay,” she’d reply. And off we went into the world of make-believe.

Now, we were top-achieving students in school, so neither of us lacked intelligence or ingenuity. In essence, we COULD have come up with something more intriguing than “Susan” and “Sharon”. But it’s what we desired, plain and simple.

When I taught elementary school in a suburb of Los Angeles, I was surprised to find that my students were often enthralled with the basic cardboard puzzles that I’d likely purchased at the local dollar store. There was nothing extraordinary or fancy about these puzzles. No images of Johnny the Sorcerer Kid- Part 1 or 2 or 6. One of the puzzles was a picture of a rabbit. Yep, a rabbit standing in a patch of grass, I believe. But this puzzle was a fairly-hot commodity. Sure, my students lined up to have free computer time (i.e. video game time) in the classroom. But they sometimes fought over who could play with the cardboard puzzles.

My friends who are missionaries in Indonesia, were relieved to see that their two young children had adapted well to the simplicity of their new surroundings. In fact, the children grew to embrace this simplicity and seemed to be somewhat frustrated or saddened when they would leave their current “home” behind and come back to visit the U.S. They were leaving friends behind, albeit temporarily, as well as this new-found “freedom” of theirs. Sure, a 5 and 7-year old could not express these experiences in such terms. But it was quite apparent to mom and dad.

It’s the typical story of a child being captivated moreso by the box in which a big Christmas gift was packaged, than by the gift itself.

For at the end of the day, we probably won’t reminisce about how we were in need of a toy better than a cardboard puzzle. We’ll probably reminisce about the nature of the puzzle itself. And better yet, about who was helping us to sort out the pieces.