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Make Believe




I wonder how many children today will grow up and remember playing make believe?

When I was a child we lived in a safe, suburban neighborhood with lots of children. The road we lived on connected to another road, which connected to another, and so on down the line. This created a large area that we were gradually allowed to explore as our age and parents deemed fit. For a few years we were not permitted to venture beyond the length of our own road and the road behind our house. However, as we grew more responsible and got to know more kids, we were allowed to expand our territory. But until that time my older sister and I were the only girls in our age group on our street.

Being girls, my sister and I were usually the last kids picked to fill out the ranks for a rousing game of Army or Cowboys and Indians. I was a plucky tomboy who often made up for my offending gender by being a fast runner and a great tree climber who never hesitated to shoot to kill with my imaginary weapon. But my older sister was a girlie-girl and her only claim to fame was being pretty. She was almost always the first member of her team to be captured, then proceeded to play the damsel in distress to the hilt. I’d get annoyed watching the boys fawn over my sister and gallantly offer to find her a safe place to hide and vow to protect her. In my opinion she didn’t deserve their protection …. she didn’t contribute a darn thing! Meanwhile, I was out there fighting fights, winning battles and taking prisoners!

I’m sure many parents today don’t encourage their kids to go outside and play imaginary war games. Instead, they let their kids play them on an electronic device, then say that’s OK because it’s “different.” But I don’t have to have children to know what’s different about playing make believe with real, face-to-face friends. It teaches kids how to negotiate, build and work as teams, resolve their own conflicts, make fair rules, choose leaders, follow directions and create group spirit.

When you were a child what make believe games did you play?

6 responses

  1. Cheryl, now you’ve done it with this picture I would love to write a novella here expanding on your memories, but I will desist. Suffice it to say, this picture brought me back to my childhood others tell me could not have been as good as I say it was. Well, it was.

    Out of the house early in the morning, back at lunch and then out again until my Dad whistled indicating it was dinner time. And the five of us would get back to the house at light-speed when he whistled. After dinner, during the summer, we’d be out again playing with friends until the whistle came again (he taught me that whistle and I’ve used it with my kids for over 30 years now). Staying home and daring to say to our parents, “I’m bored,” would result in hours of work around the house and in the yard, so the five of us learned very early to be seen and not heard, and preferably,not to be seen, either. Cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, sand lot baseball/football, war games, hiking, burying pirate treasure maps (burned at the edges, of course, for authenticity), jumping off barn roofs into piles of hay as initiation into the daily iteration of a daredevils club, forming more clubs than I can re-count, bike rides, building absolutely, positively, unsafe rafts to venture out across the local pond, pleading with our parents to go on sleep-overs…or to to host sleepovers, getting into kid-scuffles but never mentioning them to our parents because we’d be chastised for making poor decisions, not coddled for having been hurt, exploring drain-pipes as if they were U-Boats and we were out to sink them to save the world, building and firing off bottle rockets and somehow surviving with all fingers intact. And that’s when we weren’t shoveling horse manure, cleaning out stalls, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and on rare occasion, doing homework. And all that without a single, electronic game. Our parents seemed to know how to raise us without ever (EVER) having to negotiate a squabble or fight, or to arrange our days for us or cart us here or there (though there was certainly some of that, but never on weekends or during the summer). We walked, rode our bikes, or later, our horses, to our friends houses where we also made sure to avoid the grownups. Yep, those were the days and your picture brought it all back to me.

    One last note: my best friend and next-door neighbor when I was 4 through 6 years old, Wendy, played Dale Evans and I was Roy Rogers. She contacted me about a year ago via Facebook, asking, “Are you Marc a.k.a., Roy Rogers.” We now communicate regularly via email and Facebook and she signs-off, “Dale.” What it was like then vs. now is a frequent topic of discussion. Thank you for this wonderful picture. I just love it.

    January 31, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    • Thanks for writing this Marc! Yours could easily have been my own childhood. We did all of those same things. We also “camped out” regularly in back yards, in tree forts and in over the garage storage spaces that we converted into club houses. Our club house had it’s own set of rules and we even collected “dues” which we then spent on penny candy and comic books. I remember sitting up in our garage club house in 90 degree heat and sweating bullets, but we didn’t care because it was our own special place and that made it OK. We built tons of forts where we’d go to read books or comics, often packing a lunch and hanging out for hours. Like you, we played huge ongoing games of kick the can, hide and seek, pirates, sardines, red rover and all sorts of stuff. We also vanished for hours only to be called home for lunch and dinner (My mother’s signaling device was a wooden crow call). After dinner we’d be back outside and play until dark, whining when we finally had to come in for the night. And believe it or not, we used to dress up and play Roy Rogers and Dale Evans too. I was Roy, my older sister was Dale. My Trigger was a horse on a set of springs that I would “ride into the sunset” waving my cowboy hat to an imaginary audience. We had a piano in our basement and we made up our own musical scores to plays that we put on. We listened to records and danced and we made up our own Christmas pageants and performed our own interpretation of Three Billy Goats Gruff. My mother was an avid canner with shelves stocked with preserved goods that we used to play grocery store. And speaking of parents, our parents supervised us when necessary, but like you, we sure as hell were not their best friends. We did our best to avoid them as much as possible least they come up with a bunch more chores for us to do! We rode our bikes, roller skates, skate boards (Yeah. They’re nothing new, kids) and we played with yo-yos, Silly Putty, Play Dough, Lincoln Logs and Barbies. It was a great childhood with many fond memories. I would not change that part of my life for anything in the whole wide world!

      January 31, 2012 at 10:42 AM

  2. I love this post. Almost as much as I love you. Thanks for not only these glorious memories, but also being in so many of my favorite ones from childhood. I am so grateful we are in the same family, I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

    January 31, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    • Thanks sweetie! We had some fun times back then, huh? It seemed like summer stretched on for months. I loved watching you learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. My God, you were fearless in spite of having had some pretty amazing wrecks! We were always running somewhere … or just running relay races. I remember standing in the middle of the road, hands outstretched, waiting for Dad to count 1-2-3 GO! Then you and James or some other poor slob would take off up the road at break neck speed, slamming into my hand as you passed. You always won. Glad you enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. Kinda beats talking about playing Halo.

      January 31, 2012 at 4:23 PM

  3. Love the picture and the story. You are so right. My son is great at make believe but my daughter never did play make believe. Just different kids I guess. I was always a trick rider, or a horse trainer or showing my imaginary dogs. I didn’t get my own real horse until I was 31 and I love every minute of it!! Oh and we played flags too!

    January 31, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    • Isn’t it funny how horses and dogs were always in our imaginary play? Mine too! I think that kind of creativity is important and it’s sort of sad that we tend to lose touch with it as we grow older. But it’s nice that we did get to make some of our play wishes come true!

      January 31, 2012 at 4:25 PM

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