Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recapturing Play

Barbie Pictures, Images and Photos
Growing up, Barbies were never banned in my house. Even though my mother was a feminist, and I wasn't allowed to watch Charlies Angels, Barbies seemed to be A-Okay. And My GOD how I loved them. The hours of joy accrued playing with barbie dolls will tack on five years to my life. Trust.

My mother knew how to create lovely. We lived in an apartment, but there were beautiful things around us all the time. Antiques, gleaming hard wood floors, hand painted tile. Plants, stained glass lamps, candles.... wine bottles with candle wax running down like lava and frozen in time.

Our apartment had two bedrooms, a kitchen, one bathroom (SO pretty! Vintage fabrics and bottles and jars of everything twinkling out deliciousness) a dining room and a living room. We didn't use the living room. It was a pretty place to go, look around, and then leave. There was a coffee table made from a large piece of antique parquet flooring held up by an iron base. That table was positioned squarely in the center of a jewel toned, intricate oriental carpet. (I used to play marbles on that carpet too, inside the diamond shapes.)

It was a Barbie Shangri la. I brought my bucket of Barbies into the living room on a regular basis and made a two level house (Mansion!) out of that coffee table. My barbies and Kens strolled through their magical carpet gardens, and attended Balls on the sofa. They took exotic, exploratory excursions to the wide window sills and Queen Anne arm chairs. OH the hours and hours and days and days of solitary imaginary fun. I can't. Explain. The Bliss.

For the past few moths I've been contemplating, along with other writer/bloggers, why we continue to write even when we can't seem to achieve (YET...) contracts with agents, or if we have acquired agents, contracts with publishers. And then, today, while I waited in my car for my middle girl's school to open its doors, I listened to her play in the back of the station wagon with her barbies. See, we have to wait a good fifteen or twenty minutes every morning (don't ask) and she's taken to bringing a few cherished barbies and sitting in the back of my station wagon (no laughing) and creating a makeshift Barbie palace out of the stacks of books that live back there. And I remembered the fun. The pure, fun of it. And then I figured it out.

Drum roll.

I write because it is the way I play. It gives me the exact same feeling as those days spent imagining up worlds and scenes for my beloved Barbies. Nothing else since has offered me that very sort of abandoned glee. Until now....

And I won't grow out of this interest. It won't wane. It will remain a wonderland for me for as long as I'm here. How lucky is that?

How about you? Is there anything you remember from your childhood that brought you the same amount of joy? Do you still play? How?

*note... I do not have self image issues. Barbies did not harm me. Just sayin...*


  1. childhood(early) had lots of freedom to roam. Playing in the woods. Built hundreds of forts, bridges and cities. Maybe boring to most, but I still do that, in my mind and sometimes with pen.

  2. hi,
    Similar interests, mutual respect and strong attachment with each other are what friends share between each other. These are just the general traits of a friendship.To experience what is friendship, one must have true friends, who are indeed rare treasure.

    I have added you to my blogroll, hope you can do the same thing for me so that we can have constant communication.

  3. glnroz: ME TOO!
    YATLOTW: Nice. My very first spam comment! I only wish you were using an older picture of Micheal, like say from ... off the Wall, before he went "Over the wall.." hee hee. Irreverent? Sorry! Anyway... I don't mind spam comm enters (as long as they are G or PG rated.... but why not try to make a program that actually comments on the content of the post?) Am I ranting? Yes. AND if perhaps this is not a spam commenter, but a real true human who liked my blog. Say so. AND I apologize in advance. ~S

  4. Such a fantastic observation! I love to write because of the freedom and deep joy I feel when doing it - just like play!!

  5. I loved Barbies and my daughters now have WAY more than we need! But I think you're right, there's something about writing that gives us that imaginary land again! I won't ever tire of it either!

  6. bike rides... the ones that last all day.
    before there were gearshifts.
    . escape
    . travel
    . experience

    and then come back & laugh about it.

    the only difference:
    today we come back & write about it!

  7. Another great post! I played Barbies, too. My favorite thing to play, though, was detective. My brother and I would make up mysteries for each other and we would have to solve them. Loved it! Maybe that's why I've written YA mystery of sorts. Hmm...never thought about it.

  8. lets see.... i never played with barbies, but that may have somethng to do with my being male. my sister did. she even sewed "custom" clothing for them. store-bought simply would not do.

    i write poetry. (and i will NOT write all the self-flaggelating comments that would normally accompany that statement wearing it down to nothingness.) even started a poetry blog that perhaps i shall revisit. it's cathartic and it tells me what i'm thinking when i cant think of what i'm thinking. and then coming back to it, i surprise myself with how layered it seems.

    do i get fined for such long comments ?

    that being said, it's ridiculous how well you write. so yes. i guess i understand why your profile begins with "writer".


  9. The sad story is that while my parents were certainly not feminists, I did NOT play with barbies. I played with a creepy red doll (that made me scared of stuffed toys for YEARS...and okay, a little bit now still).

    I have to admit - I sometimes do voice overs for my stories. Or if I want to write a conversation between characters, I might say the whole thing out loud several times before I actually write it down. (Each character has voices too. Oh yes, they do!)
    It's super entertaining - almost as much as the actual writing of it.

  10. I used to climb up a tree and read a book as a child. I rode a bike without a helmed (I know, shocker right?!) for hours and never got hurt. My parents didn't worry about us roaming through the neighborhoods. Everything was simpler, safer.

    Confession: I used to play "dirty Barbies" with my cousins. We always made the Ken doll say sexual things to Barbie even though he didn't have the goods to back it up, if you know what I mean ;-)

  11. I could play "barbies" for HOURS. Seriously. Completely lost.

    Oh, and I loved your idea re: creating a badge out of my recent Facebook you-can't-link-your-blog here episode. I've never made a badge though. Do you know how or know who knows how?


  12. Andrea: Deep joy is the key!
    Jody: and your readers won't soon tire of you!
    Chuck: ME TOO. Gears changed everything
    Lazy: Of course that's why!
    JST: WELCOME! Thanks for the compliment. You don't write so bad yourself. there are NO fines here for long comments! Keep them coming!
    Sarah: those red dolls have my horror hairs up. Can I use them?
    Mandy: FOR SHAME!!!!!!! I NEVER, ever ever ever did such a thing. EVER. ;)(Once?)
    Pearl: PHOTOBUCKET. Free account. Take a pic you like and then you can modify it and save it to your computer. It's brilliant!

  13. Perfect, Suzanne! Lovely post.

    And I loved my Barbies, too. Probably played with them way past the age when girls put aside their dolls, but I loved creating the stories, you know?

  14. I played with assorted dolls, but I most remember the models of horses. I had corrals, saddles, blankets--trotted them around. On the doll front, my favorite pasttime was creating paper cutout clothing for paper dolls. I used the foil liners from Christmas cards and other fancy paper to make outfits. I have no idea why I did that but I had a shoebox full of these outfits. With all these things, I told myself stories, always. It's my path and I know it.

  15. You touched a nerve, Suzanne, because I DID have a mean, rotten Mommy Dearest who was philisophically opposed to Barbie dolls. I was not allowed to have them. It is funny to me now because my mom is not a feminist by ANY MEANS. In fact, in most cases, she's an anti-feminist. But, nevertheless, Barbie dolls were banned...... along with sugar cereals, white bread and Dr. Scholls sandals for some reason. So, of course, since they were banned, I was OBSESSED. I'm pretty sure my best friend in 3rd grade was ONLY my best friend because I had free access to her Barbie Dream House. Also, my friend who live across the street had zillions of Barbies and Barbie accessories and we would turn her entire basement into a Barbie wonderland. So fun! I think I will go out and by Katie about 100 Barbies just to drive my mom crazy (that never gets old, does it?).

  16. Oh, I play. I play all day with my characters. In my youth it was My Little Ponies and Barbie but now the characters just set up stage in my head instead. =]

  17. I'll never forget the Christmas my twin and I got our own Barbies. Like you said, NOTHING has ever matched that magical moment and the years of joyful fantasy play that followed. Barbie lovin' writer women unite! :)

  18. Yikes, I had the Barbies whose arms and legs didn't bend.

    I loved to write as a child and although I got away from it for a couple of decades, in my 40's the desire came back with a vengence. The best thing about writing is, you get better and better at it with age. Good thing, since I'm too old to be a ballerina.

  19. Oh I want to see that house you grew up in, how amazing. My mother only knew how to create neat and tucked. Lovely was something I found in mess and imagining. And I write for the same reason as you. I play with those words and in those worlds, in much the same way as I did when I was cutting and coloring and pasting and painting. Or squishing mud through my fingers. The joy!

    Sorry I haven't been here much this week. I kinda got lost in editing hell. Holidays with kids have been fun, re-writing my book... not so much. I almost lost the sense of play completely. Your post is a timely reminder of why I do this thing called writing in the first place :) Thanks.

  20. I played with dolls and sang along to favorite records and pretended I was a Broadway star, belting out show tunes. Now, at 60, I don't play with dolls anymore, but the writing and singing with a trio brings the same sense of joy you describe.

  21. My 16 year old daughter just packed up all her Barbies and shipped them to me for safekeeping. They were moving and there was no room for them in their new house, yet she did not want to let them go. I can so understand that and was glad to have them here - I played untold hours of Barbie with her when she was young and they bring a lot of memories to me as well.

    Yes, I write (fiction) to play. I write poetry to clarify feelings. But it's all good.

  22. I'm pretty sure that's exactly why I write... because as a child, that was how I played. I made up stories with my Barbies, on the computer, I drew cartoon stories, when my friends got together we pretended to be animals or people or tv characters and wove a story together as those characters, rather than simply throwing around a ball or swinging on the park swings. And if we *did* do those things, we fit it into our story somehow. That was my joy... and every time I write, I think I (maybe subconsciously?) try to recapture that.

    Faith @
    Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns

  23. I recall bringing my basket of barbies clothes into the living room to watch All My Children with my mom while she ironed. Those days are the best! Writing, painting and sewing are play times now.