Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Playing Pretend


"Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by"
 - Farther Along, by Josh Garrels


My siblings and I loved to play pretend. We would pick characters from favorite books and movies. often finding a role we liked best and sticking to it. Favorites of ours were Peter Pan and Robin Hood. My sister Teal and I would take turns playing Peter Pan and Wendy, then Robin Hood and Maid Marian. We would fight pirates and swordsmen, and also spend time locked in a turret or tied to a ship, about to walk the plank. We would take turns being the one working to save the other, swooping in at the last moment, heroically. Robin and Peter were bold and dashing. Marian and Wendy were more nurturing, singing lullabies to the imaginary lost boys, and encouraging Robin in his fight against tyranny.

Something I loved about our games is that it never mattered that Peter and Robin were male characters. They were interesting, and we played them without gender bias, as I think children should always have the freedom to do. For us, what mattered about the characters was their defining qualities: for Robin and Peter, that meant bravery, selfless sacrifice, being quick-minded so as to outsmart the bad guys, and of course impressive skills with a bow and sword. For Marian and Wendy, it meant a willingness for adventure matched with a gentle kindness. Wendy leaves her windowsill to fly into the night, looking after her younger brothers the whole time. Marian gives her heart to a rebel who is fighting for justice, risking both her regal birthright and her life in order to support him and his cause. This is why these characters are so timeless. Even in their mistakes, there is nobility, honor, and always the good of others at the heart of their adventures.

We loved to pretend in those moments that we could truly be the heroes of anything. Correction: not pretend, we believed it, the thorough faith of those who haven't experienced enough of life to know any differently. The buoyant optimists who chose to say they're flying instead of falling, every time, no matter what anyone else is shouting warningly at them.

We played these characters for years. We fashioned bows out of pliable juniper branches, and arrows out of straight yucca rods. We made swords and daggers and climbed trees as high as we dared, designating them as castles and ships and secret hideaways.

We had plenty of more traditionally girl games as well. Tea parties and families and cafes. Yet it was the adventures of good fighting against evil which I recall most fondly. We were also knights in shining armor, off to fight dragons, and explorers like Christopher Columbus, searching for new lands.We set out to do what we were convicted in our hearts must be done. Pretend or otherwise, that is all which really matters.

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