This is a story for all the adults out there who have forgotten how to play. Our inner child can be completely submerged beneath all the responsibilities, doing and purpose of adult life. That's when we forget. So read on and meet Rosalind. See if she feels just a little bit familiar.
Rosalind was eight years old. She had brown, curly hair and a nice smile. Rosalind was a great kid, but she didn’t know how to play. It was such an odd thing, a child who didn’t know how to play.
At first she tried to hide the fact from the other children at school by joining in on the games at recess. The girls usually played hop scotch, throwing a rock in the first square and hopping on one foot all around it in the other squares. Rosalind tried to play.
“Why do I have to throw the rock and hop in the squares?” She’d ask. “Why can’t I let my other foot touch the ground? Are we graded on how well we play?”
The children would only laugh at her and tell her to go away because she was spoiling their fun. Rosalind stopped trying to play with them.
She tried to hide the fact from her teachers, and this was easy to do. After all everything they did at school had a purpose, it mattered, and she would be graded on her efforts. Rosalind was proud to be a good student. She worked well with the other students, completing projects on time and making sure everyone got their work done.
Rosalind’s teachers never figured out that she didn’t know how to play. But Rosalind’s parents knew. They knew because even though Rosalind kept very busy helping out around the house and building a doll house complete with furnishings, curtains, beddings and dolls; even though she had a bedroom full of stuffed animals and toys, she never actually played with them. They knew because at every meal time Rosalind always ate politely, keeping each food separate on her plate, and folding her napkin neatly after finishing. She never spilled her milk, or played with her food, or made a mess of any kind. You would think that her parents would be pleased but they weren't. They were worried.
One day her mother insisted that Rosalind invite a friend from school to come over to play. So she invited Beth, a girl she had worked on a project with who she thought was nice.
Beth came over and Rosalind’s mother said, “Why don’t I bring down Grammie’s trunk and you girls can play dress-up?” Rosalind nodded, and the girls soon enjoyed pulling out all the old clothes and jewelry.
Then Beth said, “I’ll be the queen and you can be my lady-in-waiting.”
Rosalind looked at her and asked, “Why?”
“Because it’s fun.” said Beth, “Come on. Put this on.” Beth handed her a pink, gauzy gown.
“OK,” said Rosalind. She put on the gown and it was a foot too long. She dug through the pile of clothes and found high heeled shoes that pinched her toes and a sparkly veil that smelled of the attic and made her sneeze. Then she stood there, waiting. Beth looked at her.
“What are you doing Rosalind?”
“I’m waiting, lady-in-waiting, get it?”
“Rosalind. You have to do more than wait.” Said Beth.
Rosalind thought about it. What else was there to do? She could hardly move in the dress and ill-fitting heels. She was going to sneeze again, she could just feel it and what was the point of this anyway?
“Rosalind, don’t you even know how to play?” Asked Beth.
No, Rosalind didn’t know how to play. She knew she was missing something, something important, but it just didn’t make any sense to her. What was the point of playing? It accomplished nothing. She could better spend her time building something or cleaning her room or doing her homework. What was so great about playing?
Rosalind took off the gown and the high heels and the veil and put them neatly back in the box.
“Thanks for coming over Beth, but I think you’d better go home now. I’ve got homework to do,” and Rosalind went up to her room.
Soon, it was almost time for Christmas vacation and all the children, even Rosalind were beside themselves with excitement about the upcoming holiday. Rosalind ran home from school each afternoon to help get ready for Christmas. She helped her Mom and Dad string lights around the windows and on the bushes in front of the house and then helped them set up the Christmas tree and hang shining tinsel from its branches. They baked Christmas cookies, filling the house with the wonderful smells of ginger, molasses and cinnamon. She loved helping to wrap presents and package up the cookies to give as gifts. She even helped to address and stamp the envelopes for cards and proudly carried the huge pile out to the mail box.
Christmas was full of important things to do and it was Rosalind’s favorite time of year. And this year Christmas was going to be better than ever because her parents had told her she was getting a special present, a surprise! Rosalind could hardly sleep for looking forward to Christmas morning.
Finally, Christmas morning arrived. She crept downstairs and the tree was all lit up. Presents were scattered about under the tree and her father was just walking into the room, tousle-haired with a steaming cup of coffee in his hand.
“Merry Christmas Rosalind! Looking for your present? Here it is.”
He pointed to a huge box under the tree. It was wrapped in bright red and white striped paper. A frothy red and green bow bounced on top of it. Bounced? Thought Rosalind. Yes, there it was again. The bow was bouncing up and down on top of the box, and there was a scrabbling sound at the bottom of the present.
“Guess you’d better open it, Ros, before it opens itself,” said her father, reaching to put his arm around her mother who had just come in from the kitchen.
Rosalind was excited and mystified. She carefully undid the bow and as she did the scrabbling sound got louder. She looked at her parents, a question in her eyes. They only smiled at her. She pulled the top off the box.
A tiny, brown, wagging, furry puppy with huge ears, fell out of the box. Rosalind was enchanted. She reached down to pick him up and he wriggled in her arms trying to lick her face, her fingers, and her hands all at once. She held him up to feel his soft fur on her cheek, feel his warm, wet tongue on her face, and sniff deeply of the musty puppy smell of him. He wriggled with pleasure almost falling out of Rosalind’s grasp, but she held on until she could put him safely on the ground. There was no way she was going to let him get hurt. He was her puppy and she was going to take good care of him.
“I’ll call him Wriggles,” she said with delight, “Mr. Wriggles.”
Rosalind took excellent care of Mr. Wriggles. The two were inseparable, except when Rosalind had to be at school. He slept on her bed, had breakfast when she did, went out in the yard with her to get some exercise, had lunch and dinner when Rosalind did. When he made a mess in the house as puppies will, Rosalind cleaned up after him and showed him where the proper place was outside for such things. She brushed him everyday until his coat shone. Rosalind loved Mr. Wriggles and he loved her.
One day, Rosalind was out in the yard with Mr. Wriggles throwing a little stick for him to fetch so that he would get his exercise, when Mr. Wriggles did an odd thing. He caught the stick in his mouth and then flicked his head sending the stick up in the air. The stick landed on the ground and Mr. Wriggles positioned his forefeet on the stick and kicked it backward so that it flew up under his belly and out between his hind legs. Then he danced around and placed his forefeet on the stick again and kicked it backward sending it flying. He leapt up into the air all four feet off the ground and did a pirouette in midair, landing so that he could kick the stick up again. He was clearly delighted with himself and kept kicking the stick, pirouetting, and kicking the stick again.
Rosalind started to laugh and she couldn’t stop. She fell down on the ground she was laughing so hard. Mr. Wriggles ran over to her and began to lick her face enthusiastically. Rosalind was howling with laughter, and trying to cover her face with her hands to protect herself from his wet, pink tongue. Then she jumped up, grabbed his stick and ran. Mr. Wriggles leaped after her and they played chase all around the yard. Finally, worn out, they fell down in a heap, Rosalind hugging Mr. Wriggles close. “I love playing with you, Mr. Wriggles,” she breathed.
“Dinner!” Her mother called standing at the back door and looking at them with a smile on her face. “Come in and wash your hands.”
It was Rosalind’s favorite dinner, mashed potatoes, peas and fried chicken, and she settled down at the table with her parents and dug in happily. Mr. Wriggles lay at her feet. Her mother had given Rosalind a large serving because she knew how Rosalind loved mashed potatoes and peas, but soon Rosalind was getting full.
The remaining green peas were sitting politely on her plate next to what was left of her potatoes and four, well gnawed, chicken bones. Rosalind looked at her plate. Huh, she thought, what would it look like if I put the peas on top of the potatoes? She did. Then she smooshed the potatoes up around the peas building a wall around the green spheres. That looked pretty good to her and it felt fine to be mushing the potatoes all around like that. So, she picked up a chicken bone and stood it in the center of the mound. That's interesting, she thought. She picked up another one and stuck it in the side, and another one and stuck it in the other side. She picked up the last chicken bone and ...
“Rosalind! You’re playing with your food!” said her father, eyes wide and eyebrows arched so high they threatened to lift off his face.
“I am?” She replied, her own eyes wide. She hesitated only a moment. “I am!" Then Rosalind looked up at her father with a mischievous smile on her face and twinkling eyes. Lifting the last chicken bone in the air between two fingers, she plunged it into her mashed potatoes and giggled, "It's fun!”
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
What is play? Ask the children. They’ll tell you that play is anything that is fun! It does not matter what it is. If you enjoy it, if it leaves you smiling and feeling emotionally energized, it is play.
Lighten up. What does play look like for you? Fun and laughter? Smiles and song? Jokes and kidding around? Life doesn’t all have to be so serious.
Nor does play have to be a conscious effort. It can be the funny comment that lightens a heavy and serious atmosphere.
Allow yourself to play. Give yourself the gift of fun! Don’t get caught up in ‘seriousity’ for too long.
Think of this life as Soul Games.
photo from Unsplash
Here are a few things a good belly laugh can do for your body:
What are you waiting for? Laugh already!
“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things."