Remember being a kid when play time was all of your time? When time didn’t exist and the most random objects could instantly turn into dolphins, or horses, or baskets used to collect food for your prairie girl afternoon? I do.
My imagination ran wild when I was a kid and my best friend Stephanie and I would dream up all kinds of elaborate pretend stories that almost seemed real. We had several different scenarios that we would play out and most of the day was spent discussing how the story would evolve and what the characters would be like. During the summer we would ride horses all day, then pretend we were horses running back and forth across Stephanie’s huge grass field. We got so good at making horse noises, that one day Steph’s dad was convinced that there were real horses neighing in the yard. He was trying to find us to tell us this and it turned out that we were the horses. In the evening we would play with our toy horses and then we would read books about horses until we fell asleep.
If we were having a sleep over we would be awake all night playing with our stuffed animals. Steph had her favorite orange cat named Dee and I had my favorite stuffed animal dog named Shoo Shoo. Shoo Shoo and Dee were best friends and sometimes they went to the vet. Dr. Stephanie and Dr. Brittany would give them ‘surgery’ by removing excess stuffing and then sew them back up.
We also spent hours outside playing with our beloved dogs, Sarah and Duchess. Our dads built us agility jumps and we would pretend that we were showing our dogs at Westminster. We made ourselves numbered arm bands and forced our parents to come outside and be our audience. Then we would run around with our show dogs and show them off to our imaginary judges.
One of our favorite things to play outside was prairie girls and we would ride our imaginary horses all day collecting herbs and food in our makeshift baskets (I was always fascinated by basket weaving as a kid, we were the biggest nerds!). We loved picking blood oranges from a tree in Steph’s backyard and one day we discovered that a peeled, mashed up blood orange looked like raw meat, so naturally we built a ‘fire’, stuck a stick through our new ‘squirrel meat’ and stuck it over the ‘flame’. Then we called our little brothers over, who were probably digging a hole at the time, and were successful in convincing them that yes, that was indeed squirrel meat and we killed it with our bare prairie girl hands. We were strange little girls.
Our imagination and our love of playing took up all of our time. Slowly, we grew up and our elaborate stories started to be replaced by boys, CDs, training bras and mascara. My first boyfriend was a horse named Rush, but we won’t go into that. I loved my childhood so much, that I always kept one foot planted in imaginary land and one foot in teenager land. Teenager land was a lot scarier and real life started to get really real and a lot more boring. Steph and I got through high school and then found ourselves in college together at UCSD. Then we moved into the same apartment together with our other best friend Megan. All this time, even though we felt like we were all growing up, we were still playing pretend. Pretending to be grown ups, pretending to cook dinner, pretending to have boyfriends and pretending to have real jobs. Fast forward about eight years, and now were all imagining our weddings. Steph is getting married in the same field that we would run back and forth in pretending that we were horses. I’m still playing with dogs and I’m now marrying my other best friend, Matt.
Life is how you imagine it to be and remembering to play with your best friends results in a lifetime of happiness. Just because we grow old, doesn’t mean using our imaginations has to die young. Playing allows us to be creative, think of new extraordinary ideas and imagine a life that’s full of surprises, spontaneity and laughter. Work consumes adults and the art of playing suffers. Turning work into play or at least taking time to play taps into the child that’s in all of us still and reminds us to truly enjoy life because it’s the only one that we have. On that serious note, I’m going to go outside and pretend that I’m a giraffe that lives in the snow.