Writing 101: Serial of losses, Part I – Child’s Play

“Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.”

This challenge had me stumped for a while. My first thought was to take my readers down the morbid path of all my dear loved ones that are with me no more. However, fortunately for you I read on:

“This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.”

Well, I don’t think I ever played three-legged races, so I had to think some more. In the end I came up with an idea which I hope you will enjoy reading. I will tell you about hobbies or interests, or perhaps I should say persuits, that I used to enjoy and that are no longer a part of my life. I will create a serial as requested, and hope it’s not a killer!

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things”
1 Corinthians 13:11

I remember very well the games I played in my childhood and the people I played with. It has always felt as though my childhood lasted forever, or more literally a greater proportion of my life than it actually did. It feels like there was this great big chunk of life that was my childhood, followed by ever decreasing-sized chunks that are the following decades. My childhood took ages and ages to unfold. My twenties took a long time. My thirties – well, by then acceleration had set in. 40s are zooming by.

When I was pre-10 I played a lot of imagination games. Many of then involved myself and one toy. Everything else in my imaginary world was invisible to all but me. One of my toys was an old-fashioned hobby horse called Clip, whom I helped create when I was eight. Clip was made from a wooden pole, a stuffed pillowcase cut out and sewn like a horse’s head, with red and white wool sewn on for her mane. One time I was a messenger from days of yore, who had to deliver an urgent message to a kingdom far away. I galloped Clip across continents, riding hard all the way. Poor Clip’s energy would flag, but I would beat her into galloping as fast as ever. (Cruel, but what can I say? Needs must!)

It would never do not to mention my panda, Mer. I was given Mer for my birthday when I was four, and he went with me everywhere. He joined in all my games, and would play any part I demanded. He was a dog (black and white border collie, of course), a cart horse, a child – really, his character portrayals knew no bounds, except he was never a panda.

Sometime between 8 and 11, I played with plasticine a lot. I wasn’t into making models like I see a lot of kids doing these days. I used it to create characters. I would invent a game and keep it going for ages. I remember a game about a ranch in the US. There was a nuclear family consisting of mum, dad and two boys who started at 12 and 14. They lived on a horse ranch, and everyone had their own horse to ride. There was a stud stallion with a little herd of brood mares. This no doubt stole heavily from Mary O’Hara’s Flicka books. There was also a touch of Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby in there.

The wonderful thing about plasticine was that I could decide a year had passed, and everything could grow. The boys were a year older, so they got stretched longer and thinner. Foals grew up into yearlings, which involved more stretching. Yearlings grew into two-year-olds, which in my mind were the same size and shape as an adult horse. This was too bulky a shape and size to stretch yearlings into, bearing in mind they had already suffered the rack once. It was time to screw up the yearlings into a ball, add more plasticine and build again from scratch. Of course, any patterns or identifying marks had to be replicated.

A simpler model of this type of play was to use my plastic animals. Many of them were made by Britains in Britain, and as such were more realistic and durable than those that were mass-produced in Hong Kong (these days it would be China). Every time I had some spare cash saved up I would walk the half mile to the toy shop, where I would spend a bit of time browsing round the whole shop before settling in to peruse the under counter Britains toys for ages in great detail. The owner of the shop was a lovely man, and he knew me as a regular. He used to very occasionally throw in an extra animal for free.

I spent hours, days and even weeks playing these types of game. Whole stories would be created, and everyone had their own character. The plasticine and the plastic ensemble gave me so much entertainment.

Then one day I sat down to play, and it was all over. I wanted to enjoy my play as I had always done before. I tried to get into it and regain the satisfaction and interest that the games had given me. However, it was impossible. The game was boring! I remember it clearly. The magic had vanished. I put them away and never played like that again.

I think I mourned the loss. I had lost a great source of pleasure. There was no obvious reason for the change, but I simply couldn’t engage anymore. Maybe it was some kind of shift in my mindset brought on by increasing maturity. Maybe this was what it meant to stop being a mere child. I was entering the beginnings of adolescence, and I had to find other interests to fill the gap. I did, but that is for another day.


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