Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let's Pretend

When Robert was little we played a lot of make believe. As an only child he came up with all kinds of scenarios, that I, the only nanny, was insructed to act out. I don't know where his interests lie today or what he'll want to be in the future, but back when he was only 3, I was sure he would be the next Stephen Speilberg.

He owned a Fisher Price castle which was the backdrop for most of our imaginary jousting matches. He'd line the white knights up along the ramparts of the castle, then explain to me, in three-year-old-detail, exactly how the black knights were to storm the walls, swim the moat, or turn the dragon loose to burn down the drawbridge, then sneak inside and wreak havoc on the gentry. We played this game over and over again, and I don't think we ever did it the same way twice...except of course the good guys always won.

Another activity center/movie set was Robert's Fisher Price pirate ship. It came with one-eyed, peg-legged pirates, cannons, and even a crow's nest where the pirate look out could survey the make believe ocean. Playing "pirate" was not a lot different from playing "castle". There were good guys and bad guys and someone usually got blown up or made to walk the plank. As I recall, it was usually the Nanny!

But one of games I remember most fondly was one called "Let's pretend I'm a ...." It usually involved Robert coming up with an idea then instructing me how to play my part. At Halloween one year, we went to our favorite Pumpkin Patch and he choreographed "I'll be a pumpkin." Then, with the finesse of John Barrymore, my dear little actor, entered the sea of orange pumpkins, got down on his hands and knees, curled himself into a pumpkin-shaped ball and waited for me to stroll by.

From his perch he was able to perfect the art of improvisation and direct the scene at the same time. He insisted that I not just walk by and say, "hmmm, this looks like the one I want." I needed to put some drama into it. Cecil B. DeBelcher suggested I walk from pallet to pallet, saying "la la la, until I detected the pumpkin with the exact characteristics I was looking for - large, small, round, oval, with a stem or without, etc. (As I recall, the "la,la" was a very important part of the dialogue.)The next scene would be the one where I choose the rather boy-ish looking pumpkin, try to pick it up without stepping on and squishing the real pumpkins or dropping the one I'd picked. Of course, I needed to ooh and ahh in a very dramatic way about finding just the one I was looking for. I have to admit, even though strolling through the pumpkin patch singing la la la was a little weird at first, I finally got into it and I think my acting style was every bit as good as his. Well, maybe not that good, but close!

I chuckle now when I think about it, but this was real to Robert. Just as real as the time he was a rock, a medieval knight, construction worker, cowboy, policeman, or whatever it was he chose to be on any given day. It was always my great delight to join in the adventure and I have pictures of almost every persona, rock or pumpkin.

Much to my dismay, however, life moves on and children grow up. Robert is now on the verge of puberty and his days of pretending are probably long gone. But I was reminded of these games recently when I looked out my kitchen window and saw a squirrel tip toeing his way towards the birdfeeder. The window almost butts up to the tree so if I stand at the sink and the squirrels or birds can see me, they usually run away.

But this particular squirrel was more nervy than most. He seemed to believe if he just took his time and crept stealthily (is that a word) along the branch I might never see him.. As I watched, he would put one foot in front of the other and then freeze for awhile; obviously waiting for enough time to pass that I would be able to rub my eyes and clear the vision of a moving squirrel/branch. Step, freeze, repeat. Step, freeze, repeat, this crafty, yet patient, rodent moved closer to his prize.

I'm no Dr. Doolittle but I'm am pretty darn sure I heard that squirrel was say, "La, La .... I'm part of the tree," and he about had me convinced until he got a little cocky. Since he had worked so hard getting there I couldn't really begrudge him a seed or two. I'm no squirrel hater but I'm no dummy either. I realize if you a give squirrel a seed today, he'll be back for a peanut tomorrow.

I believe there are enough sunflower seeds and peanuts in the world to share. I think, however, it's wrong, just plain wrong, for a squirrel to jump off the birdfeeder right in front of me, then proceed to turn his bushy tail at me and give it a good shake as if to say, "nanny nanny boo boo," or something worse.
There is a saying that goes something like, "you're nobody til you've been ignored by a cat." Well, I think it's very possible "you're nobody til you've been mooned by a squirrel."

Hey you, Mr. Squirrel, the one who treats your benefactor with such disdain, you say, "la, la, la" and I'll be a BB gun.
P.S. For all you animal lovers out there, don't get upset ... it's just pretend!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite post yet!!

'Robert as rock' still hangs proudly on my wall.

-w