This week I’ve felt three friendly nudges inviting me to play. I ignored the first, wondered at the second and am pausing at the third. Perhaps it’s time to hit ‘Play’? If only I could fine the right button to push.
Adult play is not that easy. I’m not even sure what it looks like. Is it going to the movies, or is it writing, or is it gardening? I know for sure it’s not housework. Or driving. Or going to the grocery store.
Before entering first grade, I knew exactly what play was. It was a life of innocence removed from the ticking of clocks or the nonticking of human hearts. I lived a life ‘below time’, to use a phrase of Frederick Buechner’s. Mother would tell me, “Hurry up, it’s time to go.” And I didn’t. My first grade teacher would yell at me to “Pay attention”. And I wouldn’t. Instead, I lived in my own little world of make believe, a place safe from the likes of hurries and grumpies.
When I was little, no one ever had to tell me: “Wake-up. It’s time to get out of bed.” If I was awake, I was out of bed. That is, until I learned about school.
At child’s play, I was immersed in my own little world. My patch of grass was just fine. I wasn’t worried about keeping up with my neighbors, even if they were playing a nice competitive game of tennis.
At child’s play, I was my own person. I felt no need to fit in or to fein interest in what was not of interest; if my cousin Mike was involved in water play, it didn’t mean I had to be.
At child’s play, I was not self-conscious. If I didn’t have the the right stuff, that didn’t stop me from jumping in feet first.
So where is play? Here’s my answer for now. I believe play happens whenever we forget outselves and our limitations and the rest of the world and its limitations and the time clock and its limitations. We get lost and aborbed in another world. Maybe it’s a good book that we don’t want to end. Or a good moive. Or for me, a wonderful renovation project, a garden or prayer or writing.
For Julia Child it was cooking. Defying the odds and limitations, My Life in France tells the story of how Julia earned her certificate from Le Cordon Bleu and went on to become America’s First Lady of Food. I was so inspired by Julia’s autobiography that I promptly purchased Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I opened the cookbook, found it scary and promptly put it on a shelf, where it has gathered dust every since.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking was not a waste of money however. I learned that Julia was a master chef because cooking was pure Child’s play for Julia. I also learned that I do not wish to master French cooking or any other kind of cooking. I am happy merely to play at cooking.