I’ve been playing house for five months now. It’s no different from the way I played as a kid during the summer vacations.
Once you have earmarked a space that you will call “home”, hung up a few sheets to personalize your space, got a doll or two to live with you, and put in some cushions and a complete kitchen set, you’re pretty much settled and independent. It’s hot outside. But do you care?
It is a wonderful feeling. That half-room house has been designed according to your specifications: from the pattern of the sheets you pulled out to make your tent, to the color of your kitchen set. Of course you’ve made compromises, and there’s unlimited suspension of disbelief, but it’s a small price to pay for being in control.
What you do next is to wait for someone to visit. If you’re playing with siblings or friends, they’ve probably set up house somewhere close by, with their own sheets, and cushions, and dolls, and tea sets. They’re as eager to have you over as you are to invite them.
You realize soon that being in your pretty little customized house all alone is not all that much fun. If the others stubbornly refuse to visit, you go to meet them, and check out their lodging. Something there takes your fancy: they’ve done something to make their home prettier/more comfortable. You hurry back with an apology and procure that item. It’s the unofficial rat race.
Soon, you find that getting together in one of the “houses” is a whole lot of fun. There is space enough for everyone, not just because there is lots of room under the tent, but because everything fits so well. So that’s where the tea is sipped, the chattering is done, and the misbehavior of the dolls is discussed. The place acquires “coolness”. You stop trying to match your house to that place; instead you yank some things out of your own house if they fit better where you hang out. If you are good, sometimes, you get to make the tea.
Childhood and vacations and tents are temporary. Outside the window, the shadows grow long. There are murmurs of parents wanting the householders to be back before dark. You stay on at the “cool” house for as long as you possibly can. Then you dismantle your house, put it away, and head home.
You miss the laughter and the whispered secrets under the cloth ceilings. But you also know that though play is over for today, summer vacations are long, and childhood is longer still.
This is dedicated to all my friends, with whom I’ve been playing house for five months. May we not grow up too soon!