I was making supper the other night, when I was stopped in my tracks mid stir by what I saw and heard. It wasn't anything mind-blowing. It happens all the time and I don't even notice it. But for some reason, that time, it made me pause.
Ellie and Sasha were crawling up the stairs from the basement and then running across the floor before taking wild dives onto the area rug in the living room. They were in the middle unraveling an intricate and detailed drama of sorts. Something they created about rushing rivers and currents and swimming upstream. From there it was a pilgrimage to another swimming spot where tensions were high and danger imminent. There was some screaming and laughing and crazy swimming moves. I stood in my kitchen and I got to be a witness to the magic as it unfolded.
I've been more aware lately, of play. I think it might be the stage of life Hannah is in. She's moved through the hoops of transition from child to teenager, though she still clings to some shreds of childhood, (and for that I'm grateful). Truth be told, Hannah stopped playing quite a while ago. She's always preferred a book when given the choice, unless the people and the plan were just too good to pass up. So I am aware of the transitions and the balance and the giving up of one for another.
That makes me afraid sometimes. I wonder how long it will be until Ellie puts her "play things" away. Ellie has always loved and embraced play in a way Hannah never did. She immerses herself in it - lives and breathes whatever she is creating or making happen. The only thing, other than slippers, on her Christmas list this year, was Playmobil. She spends hours setting scenes spinning yarns - picking names, inventing histories, conflict and intertwining the stories. She sometimes begs for Sasha to join her in Playmobil land, even hiding her books to prevent her from starting to read, just to make sure that playing is the best option on the table. When she and her friend Grace are together, the two of them spend hours with Playmobil, hardly coming up for air. When I hear them, I get a warm feeling in my body and I want to savour the uncomplicated and simple beauty of their ability to play.
Other times it is Sasha who is pursuing Ellie, looking to her big sister to make whatever it is she wants to do, more fun. Ellie is like that - she brings fun and silliness and adventure to whatever she is creating. They are truly best friends in their play - I've often wondered what life would have been like for Ellie if Sasha hadn't been born - how lonely she would have been without a playmate. It's OK to play alone, but it comes alive when there is someone beside you.
But Ellie is nearly 10. And I wonder how long she'll still want to play... To pretend and invent and construct and act out. How long until her Playmobil sits in a bin and the dress-up box lid stays closed? Will Sasha be the one longing for a partner to make up a story with while Ellie has moved on?
I don't let myself think about that for too long. I know that time is coming. It makes me sad. After the play is shelved and the world gets bigger, your worries and problems get bigger too. Things get complicated and confusing and the demands and expectations around you make the Playmobil around you look even smaller than it really is. So this week, as I stood in my kitchen and listened and watched, I had to stop and savour it. I know it's not going to last. The expiration date is getting closer and I'm not ready. I know I could be surprised. Ellie could play for years to come and with the flavour of girl she is, I'm sure there will always be a layer of make-believe in her life.
But it there is ever a time when you wish the "pause" button was real, it's when the belly laughs erupt, the ridiculous stories unfold, and for a moment their world is a whimsical colorful and simple place. I hope they take up residence there for a little while longer.