When I was very little, “let’s pretend” was the best phrase and the worst phrase to say or hear. I loved pretending and could live in those created worlds for long hours.
There weren’t a lot of kids my age on our block, but I worked with what I had. When I played with them, we usually created soap operas: domestic life, school life, doctor’s office. We would have long planning sessions about the set up: where we were, who was who, what should we wear, what props did we need, and what was going on. This was the best part of “let’s pretend.” Anything was possible in the planning. But once we started, I forbade the use of saying, “let’s pretend.”
My little friends never understood it. Everything would be fine; we’d be doing a breakfast scene for instance, and suddenly my friend would say, “let’s pretend we have a dog and he wants to come in.” I’d snap, “just do it, you don’t have to say what you’re going to do.” And on and on it would go. Every few seconds, the others would add to the game by saying, “let’s pretend.” It infuriated me and stopped being fun; I’d call it quits for the day.
When I played my brother’s version of “let’s pretend,” they all revolved around Davy Crockett, Rifleman, and Lone Ranger (to name a few). I was pretty much relegated to the character who died, was captured, or jailed: the Indian, the bank robber, the black hat. That got old too.
In the end, I think I enjoyed my private play the best. Did I mention that I was a child control-freak?
I didn’t have a lot of toys but I made full use of what we did have. When I played alone, I was no longer interested in domestic scenes at all. There were no baby dolls. I had a couple of adult type dolls (before the days of Barbie), and I would dress them up in costumes and create sweeping tales of fantasy, war, and tragedy: sometimes as the damsel in distress, sometimes the heroine.
Perhaps my oddest form of pretend play was with marbles. Whereas most children use marbles to play shooting games, which I did on occasion with my less important orbs, I had one set of special marbles who each had names, and with them, I would create intricate worlds and stories. Usually, I laid out these scenes of complex paths, villages, and countries on my parents’ double bed. These stories were about challenge, survival, and conquest. To this day, I’m not sure how I was able to imbue marbles with so many feelings and personalities, but I did. Casts of thousands.