Thursday, November 16, 2017

Little Cave of Wonders

Aiden's lair! Keep out! This means you!!

Bet you didn’t know that we have a cave in our family room! Lucky us, right? Actually, Aiden is the cave dweller, and his imaginative abode is a small area in the family room behind the rocking chair. He can barely move back there, squeezed as he is between the chair and a side table, but no matter! It’s his hideaway! The entrance to the cave is his plastic Lego case, which is empty and thus very prone to falling over. I have mentioned this structural flaw to him, but he will have no other “door.” Which would be well and good were he an only child, but he has a baby brother (I almost typed “baby bother”, which now that I think of it also fits). Peter adores Aiden, and shows it by his persistence in trying to enter the Little Cave of Wonders. As the Lego case goes crashing down yet again, we hear, “Nooooooooo! Peter!! This is not your cave!! Go away, Peter!!!!”

The other night we had a playtime breakthrough of sorts. Peter, a recent walker, enjoys carrying an empty milk jug around with him on his staggers through the house. Inspiration struck, and we started inviting Peter to bring Aiden some “strawberry milk.” Almost immediately, the little guy caught on, lugging the jug over and pretending to pour the contents into Aiden’s cupped hands. He repeated his deliveryman performance multiple times. Whew! Peace and harmony! But within five minutes, Peter had sent the Lego case door toppling over, and small brother was again persona non grata. Oh well...

Aiden’s cave and Peter’s empty milk jug remind me that the very best plaything is the imagination. Some of my happiest childhood memories involved lying in bed at night and pretending the ceiling was the floor, or finding faces in the knotty-pine paneling at the summer cottage. While, as a young mom, I did my darnedest to replicate Toys R Us in our home, I noticed that it was the open-ended play items (blocks, play-doh) that proved by far the most popular.

Wise Yaj and Sheridan do not overwhelm their children with stuff, and as a result they love what they have. I remember our “corn popper” push toy gathering dust, ignored by my offspring. The exact same toy is still on the market, and Aiden has played with it every day for 2 years, taking it with him down the street to the park, using it as a lawn mower in the yard. Peter also adores the corn popper on the rare occasions that he is allowed to touch it (it is usually kept inside Aiden’s cave).

All too soon the family room will revert to just a bunch of furniture in one place. The kids will move on, and the magic cave will recede into the past. But I hope they never forget Aiden’s crazy Lego case door, and Peter’s gift of strawberry milk, and the simple joys of play. I know I never will.

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