Do you remember Mr. Roger's Neighborhood? Do you remember the little red trolley (conveniently built into the wall) that took viewers to "The Land of Make Believe"? The trolley would always stop in the living room and Mr. Rogers would summarize what had happened yesterday, something like, "Now friends, yesterday we noticed Prince Tuesday was sad about breaking his new toy. His father, King Friday, was very upset. I wonder what they'll do about the broken toy?"
I LOVED the Land of Make Believe segments. They were definitely my favorite part, so easy to visualize, so easy to feel as though I was really there. But now, 30+ years later, I'm not sure how I ever immersed myself into them. As Charlie grows, so does his imagination and creativity. I'm amazed at how easily he slips into imaginative play, and how detailed and exciting this play is. He's constantly wrapped up in his own make-believe land, which borders our own reality.
The other day, he played on our couch, alone for 30 minutes with his fire fighter truck and the plastic fish from the "Let's Go Fishing!" game. The fish stuck perfectly on the ladder of the truck and in the seats of the fire engine. Each fish was in peril and needed to be rescued from certain parts of the couch. One by one, Charlie rescued each and every fish, with a dramatic flair that you would think only happens under the lights of Broadway. There was singing and shouting and flailing around on the couch. There was beeping and siren noises and a shoestring that assisted in each rescue. As I watched him, it was hard for me to define where the imagination ended, and reality began (or vice versa).
Later that day (or was it earlier?), we played trains. Who knew that the train obsession would last an entire year, and not wane at all? Now, I have to admit that I'm not crazy about playing some of C's games. I really don't like playing "race" and playing "Can you do this?" (where we do weird things and balance and jump of the couch) is not my favorite. I don't mind playing "shoot it in the net" or soccer or baseball....I just don't want to play those for five hours. But I can kind of handle playing trains. Actually, I kind of like playing trains. Because when we play trains, we totally play "The Land of Make Believe". It's awesome. Here's how it works:
Charlie gets his trains all lined up on the tracks. As the conductor, he switches orders and tracks until the train is finally ready. While he's doing this, I'm instructed to sit on the black chair (in real life). On his train tracks, there is a little station with black chairs to wait on-- so that's technically where the "pretend me" is located. Then, he tells me which train I'll be riding on. (Usually it matches what I"m wearing. Or he lets me ride in the blue one because it's my color) But before any of this can happen, I must give the conductor a ticket-- this can be a scrap of paper, a credit card, a paper clip, a pony-tail holder, anything really, but I must not forget the ticket! After producing my ticket, I am instructed to go sit on the train (our couch). Usually, I'm told to look out the window. I have to buckle up and I have to say things like, "Oooh, here we go! Oh, we're going through a tunnel! Boy, it's sure dark in here. Oooh, there's a waterfall. Oh, now we're going over a bridge! Look conductor, the bridge lights up!" And if I forget any of these things, or if the trees fall over or the train breaks, I'm supposed to notice those things and react accordingly.
Sometimes I try to sneak laundry onto the train and I'm told that it's not a laundry train-- the laundry has to wait. Or sometimes I try to read my kindle and usually that's not allowed either. But each day, I try to remember that these moments of make believe days are very real now, not just a figment of my imagination. And someday, they'll just be a memory. I'm trying to soak up a little moment each day, and really fully engage in an activity with Charlie because, as I've mentioned before, I know I'll look back and miss these fleeting moments in the future. So while I'd love to multi-task and get some things accomplished on my mid-morning basement make-believe train ride, I'm trying to just sit back and enjoy the real-life ride-- with the cutest (and perhaps the bossiest) conductor you've ever seen in the land of make-believe.