Monday, August 21, 2017

Let's Pretend

 RHYS BOWEN: Who is watching the eclipse right now? Is it as impressive as you thought it would be?  It's a little foggy here so I'm not sure we'll see much, except darkness.

A friend once said to me “Some people hear voices and they are locked up and called insane. Other people hear voices and write them down and are called authors.”

I guess that’s true: I certainly lived in the world of my imagination as a child. I was lonely and cut off for much of my childhood, first living in a house with my grandmother and great aunts and then in a big drafty Victorian in an acre of garden and away from the rest of the village. So I always had to amuse myself. As a small child I had imaginary friends. They were called The Gott Family. (and no, I didn’t know any German) They were four sisters: Gorna Gott, Leure Gott, Googoo Gott and Perambulator Gott. You.’ll see from that that I was a rather strange child. But my excuse is that I didn’t know any real children so I wasn’t up on names.

 The Gott family had to come everywhere with us—shopping, to the park. Places had to be laid for them at table. When I wasn’t playing with the Gott family I played with my grandmother’s buttons. She had a huge box of discarded buttons and these became members of a family, a school, a hospital (the buttons with chips in them were the patients in match boxes and the white buttons were the doctors and nurses).

Later when we moved to our big house I played at being Patsy of the circus on a trapeze I built in our orchard. Oh, and I pretended (or thought) that I was Queen of Swanley (the nearest village). I’d ride around on my bike nodding graciously to people I passed. They must have thought I was batty. (and it turns out my dear friend Louise Penny also thought she was really royal and had been left with peasants!)

In past times in upper class England it was normal for a child to grow up alone in a nursery. I don't think this was healthy in many ways, but it did produce some wonderful imaginations. Just think what we would have missed if Christopher Robin had been sent to pres-school!

So I’m curious about the rest of the Reds. Did you do a lot of pretending when you were small? Did you have an imaginary friend?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  SO funny. My go-to threat to my parents was that if they persisted in doing whatever onerous and unacceptable thing they were doing, like, say, making me go to bed at a "reasonable" time,  they would be  SO SORRY when my  REAL parents, the King and Queen of..somewhere...came to retrieve their long-lost princess daughter. Hey. It could still happen.

We did lots of "shows" wearing crinolines (where did we get those?  Sometimes on our heads so we had long flowing hair. We made up songs and dances, and really practiced. We were amazingly skilled Olympic ice skaters (in socks) on our slick wood hallway. And we were fabulous Olympic gymnasts on the pommel horse (back of the couch) until Mom yelled.  We were big on cowboys, I remember, and...detectives.

I had too many siblings to need imaginary friends. I was more likely to imagine that my siblings disappeared. Just saying.

LUCY BURDETTE: I played nonstop with my older sister (by eleven months, can you imagine?) We had stuffed animals more than dolls. Her favorite was a Dalmatian named Roland, who must have come from the original 101 Dalmatians movie. I sewed her a miniature version of that dog, about 3 inches high and flat, with spots painted on by a magic marker. She called him "Little Rol." And his best friends were my stuffed cats (covered in colored rabbit fur) called Fuzzy Wuzzy, Wuzzy Fuzzy, Queenie, Tangerine, and Licorice. (I know, showing a lack of imagination in a major way!) When we grew older, she might send me Little Rol for company if I was up against something especially challenging. And then I'd send him back. Today we exchange photos of our gray cats, who provide comfort in a similar way. I would show you the original cats, but sadly roaches in Florida ate away all the fur and I finally had to throw them out!

HALLIE EPHRON: Roberta, why am I not surprised that you played with stuffed animals?!?

I did not have imaginary friends. A failure of imagination, I suppose. Not big into dolls or stuffed toys, either. But I liked to play "school" -- my parents got me a chalk board and a little desk, but my younger sister only played along under duress. I had a dear friend, a boy who used to put on plays (I played Wendy to his Peter Pan, Cinderella to his Prince…) and invite the neighborhood. My parents were working still at 20th Century Fox so I got a 'ball gown' from the costume department for Cinderella. I've often wondered how excruciating we must have been to watch.

I loved watching my daughter design elaborate cityscapes on her bedroom floor. No matter how many blocks we bought there were never enough. She's an architect, of course.

JENN MCKINLAY: Rhys, I have not stopped laughing at the name Perambulator Gott. That absolutely made my day! Lucy, like you, I played non-stop with my brother who, again like you and your sister, is eleven months older than me. Irish twins! I was determined to do everything he did and between the two of us, we were cops and robbers, soldiers, veterinarians, archeologists, and then there was an unfortunate Tarzan episode where I was cast as the friendly ape. We did have Tonka trucks, and GI Joe dolls, and I had one girl doll, but I cut off all of her hair so she could keep up with GI Joe. The best part of childhood was making up adventures with my brother. I am ever grateful that I had such a cool sidekick.

INGRID THOFT: I don’t recall any imaginary friends, probably because I had three siblings so I didn’t have to look far for a playmate.  Hallie, your theatrical endeavors reminded me of the shows I use to put on with one of my sisters.  We dressed up as Donny and Marie Osmond and would perform their greatest hits for our parents and grandmother.  My sister was Donny, and I remember wearing a nightgown in my attempt to approximate an evening gown!  It was probably painful and hilarious to watch, but I’m grateful that my parents and Nanny (that’s what we called my grandmother) were such an attentive audience.  We also use to stack encyclopedias (remember those?) in the hallway to make jumps for horses.  The same sister was usually the horse and would carry me on her back.  You might think she got the short end of the stick, but I clearly remember her dressing me up as various things—kind of like Gertie does to E.T.—including one memorable turn as a flight attendant with an ample sock bosom.  Ahhh, siblings!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, I was quite isolated, too. My brother is ten years older, and up until I was about six we were in the country with no close neighbors (the suburbs grew around us after that.) I had imaginary friends (sort of), little gnome-like people who lived in a cave in a creek bank near our house. They would invite me to tea. Very Narnia-esque, but of course I wouldn't read those books until a good many years later. I played with stuffed animals, too, for hours on end. And I played with my grandmother's buttons! So funny. How many kids these days get to play with buttons? (Although I have a whole tub of them which I'm sure will come in useful in a year or two around here.)

After I started school, my best friend and I spent days roaming the creek, playing spies and army and Indian trackers. Not very girly girls, I guess, and we never put on plays or musicals, much to my disappointment now, but we did eat a lot of Vienna sausage and Triscuits on our adventures.

I'm going to be laughing over the Gotts for the rest of the day. No wonder you have such fun with the names in the Georgie books.

RHYS:  Yay, Debs. I knew we were kindred spirits. You played with buttons too!
So who else had a pretend-friend and lived in a world of make-believe? These days with all the stress going on in the real world I think a make-believe world to escape to might be rather nice, don't you?

56 comments:

  1. I don't remember having an imaginary friend when I was growing up, but I had a twin sister, so I was never alone.
    I do remember all the fun I had playing with my grandmother's button box . . . .

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  3. I did have an imaginary friend when I was growing up. I can't remember the name though. And when playing with toys, we made up stories to accompany our playtime so that's when we lived in our pretend worlds.

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  4. What wonderful stories! I don't remember an imaginary friend, but I had three siblings and lots of friends in the neighborhood. We loved playing school, too, and "office" - my sister and I rigged up our closet to be the office, or maybe it was the post office, complete with a small chair and desk, and official-looking documents. My father was high school geography teacher, and one year we got several outdated pull-down maps of the world. Somewhere my parents found a set of old-fashioned school desks (where the seat of one is attached to the desk of the one behind). My mom painted them and we set up the back patio (southern California, so rain really wasn't an issue) as our schoolroom. I also remember making elaborate treasure hunts, with maps and hidden treasure at the end. Sweet happy memories.

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    1. Office ! We loved playing office! We would raid the office supply room in my dad's law office and then stamp things with the corporate seals.

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    2. My granddaughter Meghan loved playing office too. An old phone, chair and table in the garage!

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    3. I played office, too! My parents worked from home, so not only was I imitating mom and dad, there were always loads of "supplies!" My daughter did exactly the same thing. I remember we made her a whole set of sorting baskets and boxes.

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  5. Imaginary friends? I had a whole raft of them. And another raft of personalities, Mary Ann when I was very very good, Mable when I was bad. I still hate that name.

    I was an only child, and although I had playmates in the days when children were shoved out the door in the morning and let back in at suppertime, free to roam all day long. I grew up in very small (200 people) to small (1000 people) towns, and my wanderings were limited only by how far I could walk.

    I was serious about dolls, and I still love them. To this day I am mourning the kewpie doll that I broke right out of the box. Today's parents would have rushed out and bought me another. Not in the forties. You break it, tough. Be more careful next time. If there is a next time.

    My other favorite toys were puppies. Real live puppies. My grandfather was in the business, and I always had a favorite, always was in tears when he or she was sold. Interestingly enough, each one of them went to a home with a little girl just like me. Eventually, after the war, I was allowed to have my very own, a Boston terrier named Mitzi.

    My favorite childhood memory is watching my mother pack up my outgrown clothes for a Bundles for Britain box. This shipment included my favorite little fur trimmed blue bonnet with matching coat. It wouldn't even fit over my head, but I had a tantrum anyway, wanted to keep it. I hope to heavens that whoever got that hat loved it as much as I did.

    If not, please return it.

    Happy Eclipse of 2017. This would have been my mother's 100th birthday, so happy birthday Esther Eberwein too!

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    1. Oops, almost forgot. I am also a member of the Button Box Brigade. I also played with the spools of thread, and I pretended the buttons were hats on the costumes I designed. Back in the day buttons and zippers, snaps and trim, anything similar, were salvaged and put to use when the next garment was made.

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    2. I do love it Ann, and so sorry, not returning:)

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    3. I do love it, Ann, and so sorry, not returning! :-)

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    4. Yes, spools of thread, Ann, and I loved my mother's sewing box.

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  6. No imaginary friends, but I did make up an entire kingdom and invent adventures for those who populated it. It was ruled over by Queen Kathy (what a surprise!) and among those who lived there were all my favorite 1950s tv characters. Picture Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in the same storyline with Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. There were also triplets named Ruvin, Ruvine, and Ruvene (accent on the second syllable). I think they were probavly based on a trio of singers, but I have no idea which one. Ah, yes--the joys of being an only child.

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  7. No imaginary friends here. I had 4 siblings, including a sister 14 months older. But...my favorite childhood memory was playing with my grandmother's buttons. My children and nieces loved playing with them too. Luckily I inherited several large tins of them for further generations to use to fuel their imaginations.

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    1. I know, that's so interesting… I have a big bag of buttons right now, and trying to figure out what to do with it. Hmmm.

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    2. I am so delighted to find how many button players we have, and those who thought they were Royal. Clearly we are a unique and outstanding bunch

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    3. I never imagined I was royal, Rhys, but maybe because I grew up more or less as an "only", I was quite happy with my lot:-)

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    4. Hank, I took all of the buttons out of my mother's sewing box and have them displayed in a pretty clear glass jar. I kept thinking that I'd do a project with them, like make a picture using the buttons, but I like looking at them in the jar, too. Susan, I'm so glad you inherited those tins of buttons.

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  8. No imaginary friends here, either--I had seven brothers and sisters and a houseful of cousins at any given time--no room for an imaginary friend! ;-) We had dolls and trucks and cars and a big barn, fields, and woods to roam outdoors--but I also spent plenty of time alone, a sunny, warm sandy spot in the middle of a cornfield--where I could indulge in daydreams and make up stories--a 'cave' in a hedgerow under the bushes and trees--or maybe up a tree with a book....

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  9. My imaginary friend was Richard Barnard who had to go with us everywhere. And heaven forbid if you sat on the couch where he was sitting! I later worked with a man who knew a man named Richard Barnard. In 5th grade my friend Nancy and I would sign our homework papers Bret and Bart Maverick. For some reason she got to be Bret. I grew up with a HUGE crush on James Garner. Later we morphed into Patti Molittierri and Frani Gioardano from American Bandstand. Guess we didn't have enough imagination to come up with original characters.

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  10. I had an imagination - I used it to escape others at school (where I was definitely not one of the popular kids) and my three younger siblings (the closest being 4 years younger, so when I was desperately trying to do my own "thing" as a teen, I had three little kids wanting to follow me around).

    But no imaginary friends. I used to reimagine the stories I read and put myself in them. Or my best friend and I wrote (horrible) stories for ourselves.

    Mary/Liz

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  11. This is reminding me, one of my daughters had an imaginary pet pony.For a while we had to be careful not to get in its way. Loving these stories...

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  12. Rhys, so glad to meet the Gott family. My imaginary friends were Dan Druff and Sally.
    I was the youngest, so "had to do what I was told". The imaginary friends supported my mini rebellions.

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  13. A sister 14 months younger and a brother 2 years after her, grandparents downstairs until I was 11, and a block full of other kids. This was the immediate post-war years, with kids everywhere. No shortage of playmates. I remember running around with our cap pistols playing cowboys, and with towels pinned to our shoulders playing Superman.I also remember, vividly, preferring reading to any form of playing. Those book worlds often seemed more real than my own.

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    1. Oh! We played Superman too! We'd run down the sidewalk with our towel capes flapping.

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    2. Pat, the first-and last- time my brother played Superman, he jumped/flew from one piece of furniture to another in the living room, landed on the floor face first, and broke his nose. I was getting ready for school. Very bloody scene. I didn't eat breakfast that day.

      DebRo

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    3. I hope you remind him from time to time. What are sisters for?

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    4. Of course! As the oldest, it's my responsibility to do that!

      DebRo

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  14. I don't remember having any imaginary friends but I loved playing with dolls, dressing them, making clothes for them, taking them for buggy rides. To me they were almost real.

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  15. I didn't need an imaginary friend. I had my big brother. We played cowboys, soldiers, all kinds of games. My girlfriends and I played Nancy Drew on a case. When we visited Mom's parents I would get out Grandma's purty box that was full of buttons. I played with Mom's button box too.
    Husband Frank was the oldest so he did have an imaginary friend, Mike. Mike went everywhere with him until the day he didn't. Frank said he threw Mike in the bushes and that was all she wrote. I had three younger siblings too so none of us had the inclination to make up a friend. In fact I am sure we each wanted to be an only child at some point.

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  17. I find the playing with dolls division very interesting. I did have one doll, a plastic baby doll that talked when you pulled a string in her back (Chatty Kathy?) and I remember my grandmother made her a little pink gingham romper, but I don't remember ever playing with her. I was NOT interested in babies or pretending to take care of them. I wanted to have adventures! But then I was never encouraged to play with dolls. No sisters, only one female cousin who was four years older, and my best playmate was my boy cousin who was three months older than me. So, circumstance, or natural inclination, to like dolls or not?

    My maternal instinct did kick in a good many years later, when I had my own baby to love:-)

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    1. Adventures, yes! The only good baby dolls were the ones that drank, and then wet. The mechanics of those dolls fascinated me, but my mother was too smart to get one for me! She heard that the insides of the ones that got "fed" actual food ended up getting moldy inside. Which, yeah, of course they did. What a dumb idea. But I still wondered how it all happened.

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  18. This is such a fun topic -- enjoying everyone's memories. I did have an imaginary friend, though I can't remember her name. My siblings were 11, 12 and 15 years older than me, so I grew up pretty much like an only child.

    I didn't play with dolls much, but I remember having hours of fun with paper dolls. The thing I remember most is that there were multiple sets based on multiple themes, so the clothes that came with each were very esoteric. But somehow I would pull them all out at once and weave stories that managed to incorporate the Gilligan's Island cast along with the airline crew and the co ed and the family group and... well, you get the idea.

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    1. Loved paper dolls! But, weirdly, the only fun part was cutting them out.

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  19. I didn't have ongoing imaginary friends but would make up friends on the spot for games I played with my best friend. One day when she and I were playing after school, she didn't know what to play. It must have been around St Patrick's Day. I wanted to pretend that leprechauns lived in the stone wall behind our building. She leaned forward into the wall and said "hi, Mickey." I was upset and said to her "we don't know their names yet! We haven't introduced ourselves to each other!"

    The same friend and I and my sister who is two years younger than I am used to play a game we invented calls Traps. We took turns setting up obstacle courses while the others were in isolation on the other side of the building. When it was all set up, the person(s) would be invited to try to get through the traps! It could be very challenging! (I happen to be with that sister today, and I just asked her how I can describe that game without us looking like sadists, and she just laughed!)

    Another button lover here. My grandmother let us play with her buttons, kept in bottles in her sewing kit. I don't remember what we did with them but we loved them. ("We" included my siblings and cousins.) I now have her sewing kit, including buttons, and I occasionally buy a bottle of buttons at tag sales. No, I don't sew (except for sewing on buttons) but I keep craft supplies in Grandma's sewing kit, along with the buttons.

    Another fun thing at our grandmother's was playing Store. We took everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - out of her pantry and set up a store in the living room and took turns playing store owner and customer. I think we made up some play money, too.

    Sometimes we played School, with a rather elaborate setup to determine when each student could be promoted to the next grade. One of the cousins made up the rules, and the subsets of the rules. His version was different from the way we played it in our own neighborhood. (It's not surprising that he grew up to be a lawyer!)

    My youngest sister had imaginary friends in the year before she started school, when all the rest of us were at school and she was home alone with our mother. Her friends included Flower Pot Mary and her sister Flower Pot. She went to an imaginary school with them, where teachers included Sister Curtains and Sister Chairs! (Yeah, the whole family went to Catholic school.)

    DebRo

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  20. Since my mom and I are allergic to dogs and cat, I have an imaginary cat named "Kitten." My imaginary friends, however, were people like Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Pac-Man. I guess that should have shown me early on that I was more a fan than a writer.

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  21. I've just remembered that my daughter Jane had a doll called Jerbane! When Jane did anything bad it was always Jerbane's fault!

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  22. One of my favorite aspects of being a children's librarian was working with kids and watching them pretend to be the heroes and heroines in the books we read. It broadened their minds and their worlds.

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  23. My sister and I used to don red neckerchiefs and hop 'backward' onto the arms of my dad's wingback rocker. Then we would have horse races and get into arguments about who won.

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  24. Rhys, you have given me such a great laugh today with the Gott family, especially Perambulator Gott. I see signs of Lady Georgie humor there. I did have an imaginary friend for a short while, but it seems rather surreal now, as I think it was a boy, but I can't be sure. I do have a distinct memory of being in my parents' bedroom and saying goodbye to this imaginary friend, who left through one of the windows in that room. It's all a bit muddled and bizarre to me. I had a great neighborhood for playing with friends, and a few of us regularly played school in one the friend's basement, where she happened to have a chalkboard on the wall. There was the neighborhood club called the Deerfield Deers (Deerfield was the name of the area in which we lived), but the older kids kept raising the age of entry to prevent we younger kids from joining. Oh, the unfairness of it all. We played cops and robbers on bikes, hopscotch, jax, and later Barbies with one of my female friends. My mother had a fabulous tea party for me once, where all the girls of the neighborhood and I dressed up in lady-like dresses and spent an afternoon taking tea and such. One of my favorite photos is from the party, with me in my long dressy dress.

    I won't tell you about the large group of us getting caught playing doctor. It was quite innocuous but a most serious matter with parents.

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  25. I definitely missed out on the button front! I had no idea buttons were a thing!

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    1. Agreed! HOw would one even play with buttons? :-)

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  26. I just came down from the 39th floor of my building after watching the eclipse. We had 90% totality in Seattle, and I have to say that it was interesting, but it didn't blow my mind. The part I found most intriguing was the drop in temperature. It got quite chilly!

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  27. Too bad our 90% totality didn't drop the temps here in Cincinnati. It's steamy here today! My husband was doing a video timelapse of the eclipse, so I got to check the progress on the video screen periodically, but the more fun part was watching the shadows change into half moons.

    Hank, as the oldest of four siblings, I also never had imaginary friends. My best fantasy, and one for which I prepared well, was being stranded on a desert island. Alone. How I'd have gotten there was the big mystery, since we lived in Hamilton, Ohio, where the largest nearby body of water was Acton Lake.

    However, my little brother had one, a fireman named Barney, when Ralph was three. At the time our other brother was yet to be born, so the three of us kids shared a room. Every time Ralph was put to bed he and Barney would have great chats before he could get to sleep. It was so fun to listen, and at eight I felt so superior, don't you know.

    We also put on plays, especially at my friend Ellen's house. Her mother was an interior decorator and they lived in this massive house. Even though Ellen had seven siblings, and the housekeeper and caretaker had an apartment in the lowest level, they still had unused rooms, including this beautiful front parlor with octagonal sides. The only thing in that room was a plinth with a huge urn always filled with enormous flowers. Ellen and I, and sometimes one of her sisters, would put on plays just for ourselves. We'd get plays from the library and read right from the scripts, very dramatically, natch. And as the oldest kid, I'm make my siblings have plays, too, if the weather was too bad to go out. I was good at creating "costumes", and kept my mother's laddered stockings. They made great padding, and even a wig for my youngest brother to wear on Halloween. Ron became Veronica, thanks to a headband tied with nylons, and an old pink dress. Lucky kid!

    Rhys, for the rest of the day I'll be trying to think of a good nickname for Perambulator. LOL

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  28. Oh, yeah, and I made spool people, and clothespin people, with the one-piece clothespins with the round heads. My girls did, too, when they were small, and I always kept scrap boxes around with odds and ends for them to play with.

    I don't remember playing with buttons, although I do have my grandmother's buttons, and my mother-in-law's, too. They were born a mere eight years apart, so many were from similar eras, and their sewing boxes were identical, oddly enough. But my paternal grandmother had a huge crock of marbles that had been my dad's and his two brothers', and I remember us playing with them whenever we visited.

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  29. I had imaginary horses and plastic ones. We used to play Tarzan. I was Boy until another kid joined us, and I got demoted to Cheetah.

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  30. The storybook characters were my imaginary friends. I envisioned conversations with Snow White. I remember escaping through books and stories. In the 6th grade, our homework was to keep a daily journal. Sometimes I would make up stories instead of writing about real life.

    Love the name Gott family. I notice the creative names in Lady Georgie novels. You did not speak German, though I wonder if you heard someone speaking German on the radio or on market day? Before I knew about foreign languages, I remember making up words and it resembled the spelling of Dutch words.

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  31. I had a glorious childhood. My brother was nine years older than I so I too was left to my own devices. I spent time acting out all the television shows I loved (Sky King - I was Penny) Rin Tin Tin (I was Rusty) you get the idea. Then I began to make up my own stories-- haven't stopped doing that yet. Like Jenn I was a total Tom Boy (as we were called back then) and it gave me a sense of confidence and adventure that would serve me well. What do you say, Jenn, we could teach MacGyver a thing or two, don't you think!

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  32. I loved, and still love, my private world of friends and flowers, grass and trees. I call it my growing up time, the few years I spent living in a camp in the woods of Massachusetts with one of my great-grandmothers, Grandma Troy. I didn't know it then, but she was very depressed. Her son, a Boston police officer, had been shot and killed in the line of duty. I think she liked having me there with her, and I was the happiest ever right then. She taught me how to pump water, and how to use the old black cook stove. We picked berries and fished in her part of the brook down back of the camp. I loved being alone even then, and I had all the time I wanted to myself. When I was five, she died, and I lived next door with my parents who also gave me that freedom that I need. I look back and see all the dangers. Even then there were many, but I survived in my separate quiet world a very happy child ready to face the discomfort of school, that September of my fifth year. We had no kindergarten, so all the children at least five years old, started first grade. I'm still close to one and play word games with her, online, alone together.

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  33. I didn't have an imaginary friend, but I had a younger sister who was surprising compliant in all my schemes, shows, and adventures. Now, she's a strong, independent woman in her 40's who rarely bends to the whims of others. I think my childhood broke her. :-(

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