Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Thursday Challenge: Play

Nyssa (left) and Lori (right) were best friends in Mississippi for many years. They met by peeking at each other under the fence in the back yard. They were both almost four and Lori, who had immune problems as a baby, was only then able to spend time with other kids. As they were next door neighbors, hours were spent together in each place. Dress-up was one of their favorite pastimes.

When Nyssa was four she had to spend Christmas with her dad in Texas. I was alone at home and had decided it was time for a dress-up trunk. Over the years remnants of lace, satin, fake fur, and other materials had been collected along with ric-rac, beading and sequined embellishments. So all that week I sewed dresses, long with all the trimming. Maroon, blue and white, leopard print tops, polyester tops and skirts, flowing beige satin and lace, fake fur stoles and muffs and a complete bride's dress with white gathered satin skirt and top covered in white lace. The gown had long lace sleeves and I made a veil attached to a headband with hot glued white flowers. The outfit was completed with a bouquet of silk flowers and long flowing satin ribbon.

I put these and others in a medium sized trunk along with old hats and wigs collected from the grandmothers and yard sales, various pieces of old costume jewelry, plastic high heeled shoes from Walmart and regular shoes from the grandmothers as well. Parasols, gloves, tiaras, and costume masks were added, as were grass skirts, leis, and maracas. The trunk was full. I put a big bow on top and this was to be her main present.

When she got home and opened her presents, it was a big hit. Soon, Lori came over and they were digging through the trunk, giggling, making up stories, prancing around the house in crazy mixes of the outfits. This was the best present I could have ever given her. She and her friends played dress-up and stretched their imaginations for years as the little dresses that first puddled on the ground around their feet grew shorter and shorter until the hems came to mid-calf and we finally had to admit that there was no way to squeeze into them again.

The dresses were folded neatly and placed in storage, but the "dress-up" fascination remained. Dance costumes, a used graduation gown, larger grass skirts and even draped fabric pinned in strategic areas was used well into the fifth grade. (Somewhere we have a funny video of that surprise spend the night birthday party you can ask Nyssa about) One doesn't outgrow the accessories although some of the boas are now quite feather bare.

In this day of Game-Boys, cell phones and i-Pods, our children's minds are not being exercised. They are more technically aware and capable than we who were children of the 50's and 60's, yet these advances have robbed them of something most precious, their imagination. This ability to take items and pretend, making up a storyline in your mind instead of sitting numbly in front of a television or gaming screen is being lost. Riding your bike down a hill as fast as you can pretending all the while that you are on a wild stallion, acting out and reliving in your mind the passages of a favorite book; I can think of no happier thing to do. Just sitting alone, lost in the pages of a good ghost story or visualizing the details of the tree home in Swiss Family Robinson; away from the distractions and noise of the world, fully engaged in the words and the sights, sounds, smells and tastes they describe and seeing in your mind the pictures they paint; this is fun, contentment, excitement and pure joy.

Nyssa and Lori demonstrate this joy in the picture above; the wacky, goofy, impossible joy of being a child with large thoughts of castles, princesses, judges, queens, brides, mothers, dancers, actresses, models, doctors, teachers, and yes, hula girls. I can honestly say, "Nyssa, with this gift.....I did good!"
Submitted to Theme Thursday.
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