This is the seventh post in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Today’s letter is “G”.
Today I thought I’d blog about a gift that my mother gave my brother and me, without any of us realizing that it was a gift until much later.
To explain the gift, I have to tell you a quick story.
My brother and I, like many kids, liked to play with our stuffed animals when we were kids. We were really into them. Some even had distinct voices and personalities.
We really got into the imaginative games that we played with our animals.
When our mom called us for dinner, sometimes we’d be so into our games that we tried to bring the animals to the table so we could keep playing. Our mom said, oh no, we’re not going to have that!
Now, my family only ate together on holidays or special occasions. So most nights it was just my brother and me at the the table. Somehow (and I don’t even remember the exact moment or time), we realized that we could keep playing our games at the table, even without the physical animals. We could still make their voices. We started using our hands to represent them instead.
Soon, it became our thing. At almost every meal (excluding holidays or special occasions), we would engage in imaginative adventures with our stuffed animals using our voices and hands.
It continued throughout our childhood, on through middle school, high school…and beyond. As we grew older, our stuffed animals became less stuffed animals and more characters. We could create an infinite number of characters, adventures, and settings. It was an open-ended, mostly improvised play-acting game that evolved organically. The characters aged with us, and the content of the game often reflected what we were going through in our own lives. When we play, we are so connected that we’re of one mind.
My senior year of high school, I put together a memory book of the game up to that point for my brother’s birthday, with written profiles of all of the characters, settings, and adventures. It was all written and drawn by hand (this was 2001, before There Was An App For Everything). We could probably make a second, third, fourth…tenth volume. We take out the book every year when we’re both home for Christmas.
My mother had mixed feelings about the game when we were young. She once told me she wasn’t sure how much she liked it. We had a tendency to get very loud, and I’m sure it sounded crazy and nonsensical to everyone else in the house. Plus, sometimes my brother and I would even fight over disagreements, and our mom didn’t like that.
But as we grew older, we fought less. My mom eventually accepted that that was just what her kids were going to do. At some point she even grew fond of it. My brother and I are much older now, but we still play occasionally when we’re together. It’s something we can pick up at any time, since all the knowledge is stored in our heads. Before I went home over the holidays, my mom told me over the phone, “I want you guys to play your game when you come.” She still doesn’t understand it, but she likes that we play it.
My brother and I will probably play this game when we’re in our 80s. It is something we share. And that is the gift. Our mom could have easily put a stop to the game, especially since she didn’t like it. But she didn’t. I’m not quite sure why she didn’t nip it in the bud. Maybe she liked the fact that we did have a lot of fun playing it. Maybe she liked that it was unstructured and open-ended. Maybe she knew it would be something we could look back on. After all, we outgrew our toys and even the original stuffed animals and dolls that inspired the game. But the game itself has endured over 20 years.
Whatever her reason, I appreciate it, and in this day of high-tech, it’s nice to share something with someone that only involves our hands, voices, and imaginations.