RHYS: When I interviewed Tasha Alexander, earlier this week, I was delighted to find that she too had cut out and played with paper dolls as a child, acting out scenes from her favorite books--exactly the way I did. And I was even more delighted when so many people chimed in to comment that they had also played with paper dolls. So I'm wondered if it was a writer thing.
Do really creative people always find a way to invent their own universe?
As a small child my other main plaything was my grandmother's box of buttons. She had cut buttons from every discarded item of clothing and had this huge collection. I used to play with them all the time. One day a large button was the mother and the tiny pearly buttons were her children. Another day I'd line buttons up and have a school. (I'd always have badly behaved buttons who got sent to the corner and a favorite pink button who could do no wrong). Then I'd take all the chipped and damanged buttons, put them in match boxes and that would be my hospital. Naturally the white buttons would be my starched white nurses!
So I'm curious now: what early signs of creativity were there in your lives?
JAN: My mother insisted I start ballet and tap lessons at age 3 1/2. I distinctly remember taking all the glasses down from the cupboard and pretending they were dancers. I'd use the kitchen table as the stage, and spend hours choreographing them in different dances. When I was really hard up -- like at night in bed when I had no other toys or kitchen accessories available, I'd pretend my fingers were dancers. And choreograph them. It's amazing what kids will do to keep their growing brains occupied!
HANK: Okay, I'll confess. We used to have bug fights. Bug fights!
We'd find a bug, generally a little one. Then we'd lift up big rocks to see all the other kinds of bugs that were crawling around underneath it.
(I never touched a bug, actually, I made my sister do it. And we carried them on cardboard.)
Then we'd put the little bug in with the other bugs, and see if they'd fight.
Now, I admit. This was weird. And hardly as adorable as glass dancers or as clever as button people.
Kinda more along the lines of incipient serial killer, but happily it did not turn out that way.
However! Lesson learned! The bugs NEVER FOUGHT. The "invading" bug would always curl up in a little ball. The other bugs would sniff around (or whatever bugs do) and then get bored and crawl away.
Then the invading bug would hightail it out of there.
Passive resistance. Very zen...to win and survive by not engaging.
ROBERTA: I was a big fan of paper dolls too. And Barbies. I loved when the family went to my aunt and uncle's home because my cousin (an only child) had all the accoutrements--the Barbie Dream House, the convertible, the Ken doll, the Skipper, and tons and tons of outfits. My sister and I also collected simple little china figurines from the charm machines at the New Jersey boardwalk. They were about two inches high, with no clothes, and few features. We would write out slips of paper that had girl or boy on them and others with a number. And then we would draw slips to design families--the number of kids in the family and the order of sons and daughters. Then we poured through a baby name book and named each of them. An early (and simple-minded?) approach to creating characters?
HALLIE: Oh, is this bringing back memories. I was big into dolls. But mostly I loved to play out different roles, coercing my poor sister Amy to be the student to my teacher, my friend Linda to be slave to my queen. In retrospect, I wasn't so much creative as bossy. I was also friends with a very creative young man who wrote plays (at 8) and we'd act the out in his backyard. His mother was a screenwriter so we got a bit of help, and when we performed them one time I got to wear a real movie costume. With gold high-heels which, between the time that we rehearsed and performed, I outgrew.
RHYS: I was also very big into role playing too--with my poor great aunt. I was the good princess and she was the wicked queen, or the witch, or the poor woman gathering sticks. I got a big shock when I went to school and found you can't always be the princess in real life! This is probably the deep psychological reason behind my creating royal characters. We're still all role playing like crazy!
How about you? What did you play?