Working at Play

At first my playmate and I were content to trample the weeds to form the halls and rooms of our imaginary house. Pointing to a tall skinny sapling growing closest to the gray weathered boards of the machine shed, I announced with imperial grandeur, “Between that tree and the shed is the little girl’s bedroom.”


Christy and I were playing on the backside of my farmyard. It was a secret place I seldom visited, where two of Daddy’s farm buildings were set at an angle to each other, forming an L. All that could be seen from this lonely spot was our back forty, and beyond that, our neighbor’s back forty. Among a green ocean of weeds, several small trees grew tall in this paradise. They were protected from the north and west winds and basked in each morning’s sun.


In the cool stillness of one early summer day, Christy, a neighborhood chum and I careful laid out our playhouse floor plans. The little girl’s parents had a bedroom down the hall, just behind the woodshed. Down another hallway was the kitchen, marked by a big rock stove.


Surveying our work, I impatiently kicked at a few weeds that didn’t want to be trampled. A small flat rock tumbled out of the way and one of the weeds lifted out of the ground. My scuffing produced a bare spot that looked nice, so I got down on my knees and began to pull weeds. Before long I weeded hallways from the entrance to the kitchen, and one to the living room.


Poor Christy was put to work too, but she didn’t seem to mind. The house we were making was real to us…as real as the houses we lived in. The weedy patch under the trees became more than it appeared. We took possession and inhabited the Place within our imagination.


After our architectural weeding was done, a funny thing happened. My neighborhood pal and I lost interest in the paths and our little warren rooms.


The memory of the hard work that my friend Christy and I put into our play that day, made me smile. I let the dish water out of the sink. What had triggered the memory was my husband’s afternoon project. For the last two hours I’d been hearing the occasional ringing blows of a hammer and the blaring of my husband’s favorite country western radio station coming from our newest shed on the property.


I decided to pay him a visit. Two of our cats accompanied me. Barry, the pleasure seeking cat, weaved his fat silky body around and between my legs as I walked across the lawn to the silver Quonset building. Oskar, the sleek, beautiful little female cat watched us with bright, intelligent eyes, her whiskers shining in the sunlight. Gracefully she bounced after us like a ball, seeming to skim across the top of the grass.


Arnie was busy hanging a cupboard along one side of the building when I peeked in. “What are you doing?” I asked, knowing the answer.


“I’m making a workshop.” my handy husband informed me. “These old cupboards will work out great.” Pointing deeper into the shadowed building he said, “The bench I’ll use is over there.”


After quickly doing some mental arithmetic I chided, “Another workshop? This is your fifth one that you’ve made since we came to live at this place!”


With an offended look on his face Arnie said, “It is not!”


“Oh yes it is!” I assured him, “You made one in the red barn soon after we moved here…you never used it much. Then you made one in the basement…that worktable has been piled high with boxes for the last few years. Then you built one in the small white garage. Did you EVER use THAT one? After the brown shed was built, you put together your biggest and best workshop ever in its back room. You keep building workshops, but never using them!”


Arnie smiled…I figured he was remembering, but it turned out he was gathering ammunition for a return volley. “How about you?” he challenged, “You have had five offices in the house since we moved here. Your first one was in the room near the stairway, your second one in an upstairs bedroom. Then you had one in the corner of the dining room. The one in the corner of the kitchen you never used, the kids took it over. Now you have a big office in the front room.”


I frowned and said, “What? Oh, I’ve forgotten about all of my little offices. It appears that we enjoy setting up places to work. Why do you suppose that is?”


Arnie shrugged and said, “I guess we like to work!”


Oskar was searching in the dark corners of the building for mice. Barry had flopped down near my feet. I leaned down to rub his belly and answered, “I don’t know if that’s true. Preparing offices and workbenches for ourselves has more to do with playing.”


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