As I sip my hot chocolate while simultaneously wearing my favorite Mickey Mouse t-shirt and fuzzy slippers, I am mindful of an ever-present theme in my life since last Tuesday.
There is an eager and enthusiastic cloud of nostalgia over my bedroom. From eating my Mac n cheese and a fudge pop dinner, to playing Banana Grams and card games with my husband Daniel, to
leaving my clothes all over the floor in our bathroom I can feel my terrible tweens and elementary years folding into my daily life. I am mindful that some of you reading this (especially my parents) may yearn to remind me, “Allison, that wasn’t that long ago.”
Yes, I hear you. Bear with me.
Today, I propose that we hold on to this return to youth where we can. How we coped in times past with imagination flourishing and bravery at the center of adventure may be a tool in our belt for the month to come. Roberto Benigni Vincenzo Cerami’s Life is Beautiful* comes to mind as an example of this hopeful strategy. If the story of a Jewish-Italian bookshop owner in a Nazi concentration camp shielding his son with his clever imagination isn’t enough of an example, let me explain…
Flipping back to younger years, I know that often I was blessed with a naïve and joyful impression of the world because of knowing less of what to fear. Digging in the dirt to make mud pies was a project on my weekly planner when I was five years old, and now I know why Mama was so weary of grounded wasp’s nests. For those of you who have kids or who have younger siblings, this time of isolation is confusing, but often exciting and new to our younger counterparts! More time with parents, a chance to adventure in a new way, and no school feels like a forever snow day. I’m sure they do miss their friends and unknown to them they miss routine, but COVID-19 is not as scary as it may be for those of us who hold nurses and doctors in our hearts.
At the moment, my returning to childhood looks like wearing my pajamas all day, watching the Cincinnati Zoo go live on Facebook to share about a new animal each day, outside adventure time to send videos of Spring to my family in Michigan, and yes – for the first time in my life I am playing video games on Daniel’s Nintendo Switch (ask me about Animal Crossing - I LOVE IT).
However, I want to put an encouragement out to everyone to share in some “play pretend”:
Build a fort – or a fortress – or sailboat – or cruise ship
Serve yourself dinner as a “master chef”
Take a card from Frida Kahlo and paint a stunning self-portrait.
THE FLOOR IS LAVA!
Pretend you’re off on an adventure in Never-land and use empty toilet paper rolls as binoculars! (I see you with that toilet paper!)
Make a fancy shmancy hat out of paper and wear it to tea.
Watch the clouds and see the herd of animals crossing the sky!
Imaginative play for children is crucial to develop language and social skills, and to handle conflict. It helps with problem solving and sparks new ideas! But most important in this season, playing pretend brings us joy and helps us to have courage in our fears. It lets us talk to ourselves and express our feelings while having fun and acting like someone new! I know this is true from my Grandma Alice who shares her “tomboy” memories of playing war with the neighborhood boys on her street. There was indeed a war raging over seas which left an impression on her as a girl. She chose to play, and I choose to pretend during this scary and confusing time. I hope you will join me!
Signing off as the girl who pretended she was a mermaid in order to swim in the “deep end,”
Stay brave and adventurous out there.
*Please! Please! If you have not seen this movie watch it tonight.
---grab that tissue box first.
Allison Pelyhes is in her first year at Elon University as Multifaith Coordinator at the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. In her role, Allison oversees Numen Lumen, a cohort of Interfaith interns, and the Interfaith House LLC. A recent graduate of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, Allison is thrilled to take her passion for interfaith communities and education to another campus. While at Hope, Allison received a dual Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Sociology with a minor in Peace and Justice Studies. In addition, she studied abroad in Muscat, Oman where she worked at the Al Amana Centre, an NGO devoted to Muslim-Christian relations within the Sultanate.