The Castle Kit that’s been hanging around down in the toy-file-drawer came out into the sun yesterday. Its debut several months ago went the way of the Go Fish cards, the Cootie Game, the numerous puzzles of twenty-four or fifty pieces.
Books are different---books get opened, admired, sounded out, and read to over and over, but games with pieces---those have been a different story. Candyland’s little cards and figures were co-opted for the dollhouse, serving as guests and carpets and blankets.
Any pouring out upon the table, or attempts to deal or explain rules were met with immediate encircling-with-arms and refusals to listen. And I, from my own imagination-laden childhood (albeit of far lesser bits and pieces to conjure with) can remember the immediate jumps forward of this-will-make-a-splendid x and won't-that-go-nicely-in-the-dollhouse/game /kitchen/ treehouse in which acorn cups and flower buds and bottle caps translated nicely into all sorts of other needfuls, understand perfectly. This child takes things into her own hands---making roads and hills and schools and songs. You’re welcome to participate and embraced into the imaginary game or story with enthusiasm---just take what she hands you, and follow her lead.
And I treasure these times---even the proprietary ones, for they are fleeting and the conversations beyond price.
And now---yesterday---as she spied the castle bag in her toy-tub, she gently lifted it out, laid it upon the table, and carefully spilled its shapes upon the cloth. We got out the INSTRUCTIONS---just imagine---and read those for the cornerstone, at least, as she patted and picked up and perused all the shapes and forms. We counted out twelve blocks---check; two arches---check, two ice cream cones---ditto.
I carefully stacked the first six pieces---the two foundation blocks, two round-ended planks, and the big gateway balanced atop---then sat back and let her go to it.
And she did---quite well for a four-year-old, I think. Little tries and rejections, tiny squints and removals, the soft whisper of “Steady, very steady,” as she set the tiny crenellations into Mary Poppins chimneypots. A few overturnings, a couple of just-avoided avalanches, and quite a few prinkings---like a new bride moving a mirror or chair from place to place all over the room til she’s satisfied with the effect. She'd pick up a piece and reach, then reconsider like an uncertain chess player, never turning loose of the wood.
It’s still sitting there---we left it for Ganner to see when he got in late from work; we ate at the dining table, the three of us, setting down the little Tupperwares and the cottage cheese container right out of the fridge onto the shiny glass with the fish sticks and the bowl of snap beans, so as to leave the breakfast-table masterpiece intact for her Mommy to see after her Bible study meeting.
What small royal or fairy or elf wouldn’t want to live there? Ganner and I certainly would, but we’re waiting til the moat-diggers work us into their schedule.