The magic of make believe is made real even for adults every time we enjoy a movie at the local cinema but sometimes the fun of make believe is lost in the land of adulthood.
When I was first working as a registered nurse (long before I ever had any idea that my husband and I would end up owning and running a bed and breakfast for what is coming up on 12 years) I was working nights at our local hospital 3 days a week. This would have been quite fine save the fact that I had a little daughter of four years old. We had her enrolled in the program of my dreams before I had known I would be working nights. The school was wonderful and enjoyed the best of reputations in our city. I had put her on a "wait list" a year before and when they called and said she could attend I felt as though I had won Lotto. This program began at 9:00 a.m and was only for 3 hours. The morning hours were not one problem. I was out of the hospital by 7:30 a.m. providing a comfortable window of time to make the drive home, ready my child providing breakfast and dressing and travel time to make sure she was not late for class.
After taking her to the front door of her class having been up all night working I was beginning to feel the need for sleep. Every day I drove home and went to sleep. Well, let me back up on that a bit. Every day I did drive home and try and go to sleep. My daughter was released each day at noon so really by the time I dropped her off I had literally 3 hours before I had to be standing at the classroom door again to collect her. It was a 20 minute drive back home.
I believe those of you reading this missive are beginning to get the picture.
School began in August and suffice to say by the beginning of winter I was beginning to have serious doubts about my abilities to survive this working Mom's strategy that had seemed workable....Workable in that I actually could have her at the appointed place at the desired time and would be able to pick her up too as neither was at my scheduled working time. In my infinite wisdom and sincere desire to have my girl attend this program it became painfully obvious that I had neglected to fully appreciate the difficulty that never getting any sleep was going to pose to me. In adding insult to injury I had also neglected to assess that as a four year old child when we did arrive back home from pre-school(her 25 minute rest time already fully appreciated by her) she was now in the "I want to play mode." Oh God, she wants to play and I am ready to completely collapse.
Now, the reader my be wondering long about now how I expected such an operation to function and that I should have procurred day care. Obviously, that would have been a sensible plan. It was also a luxury at that time we could ill afford. Further, it was only 3 days a week. So I set my thoughts to a solution of another kind and thus began the infamous "waitress game."
Here's how that went.
We came home, had lunch and armed with books, and other "busy work" accoutrement we went to Mommy's bed. She was four and loved to look at books, color and so forth. However, as all mothers of children that age know... this type of activity can only go on successfully for a time and then they move on and want to interact with someone. I was the only someone home and in complete and total sleep deprived desperation hatched the following plan.
My child was to be a waitress in a dining establishment I had stopped into one evening for dinner. I was not her Mom for this game now. I was the customer.
So we began "the waitress game." She had a waitress pad and I began to give her my order, all the while with my eyes closed laying down on what I fully hoped would be my sleeping bed (the operative word being-Sleep)
I would begin with my drink order and the requirements I had for that and move on to the appetizer and first course. My child, taking this all very seriously was writing down instructions as to my desires on this order. Finally, finished with the order she just stood there looking at me. I said, "Honey, what are you waiting for? I'm hungry and thirsty. Are you just going to stand there or are you going to get my order?"
My child, even at that age, was not a stranger to eating out. Being the only child, she had dined out frequently usually accompanying her Dad and me. She said, "Mom, I know you are my customer now and not really my Mom for this game but who is supposed to cook this food? I am the waitress and I bring the food." I carefully explained that in general terms this is how that usually goes but this diner is a bit different and the waitress actually prepares the food.
"Oh", she says and disappears to the kitchen. Blessedly, believing that I had a healthy 10 minute cat nap that is about to be mine, all mine, I close my eyes.
In seconds, she is back looking at me and I realize now that I am going to have to up the ante of this game if it is going to provide the 10-15 minute intervals of solitude and sleep I am so looking forward to.
"Oh, honey, Mommy didn't explain this well. You don't have to really do the actual drink and food but in this game you really do have to make something", I said.
I told her she could use the platter in the kitchen and a towel to cover it for her "waitress tray" and water for the beverage and she would have to use her imagination to come up with what items could be used for the food I had ordered. Like coloring a picture of a hamburger and grass for the lettuce and draw the pickles...Well you get the picture.
Sometimes she would be gone for a bit of time to appropriate all the required assembly items for the order I had placed.
Then, just as happens in real life.... when she arrived bedside with the order I would announce that I needed more ice, I would need a tomato too and by the way, the fries are a bit chilled needing immediate re-heating and I have decided I would also like a pork chop. Generally this could go on for an hour. She was little and had worked both her tiny feet making tracks back and forth from the rest of the house to our bedroom in search of the desired items as well as delving creatively into her imagination to achieve the desired results. She was still new to writing her letters too so those skills were being heightened. Sometimes, I cut a lucky break and after a few orders she would crawl up in the bed with me for a rest from all this hard labor. We had much fun and a lot of laughs with this crazy endeavor and she speaks of it still to her own children.
My favorite item to tell her I wanted was a Pork Chop and for reasons I can now no longer name, save the insanity of needing a nap, I would howl, "Rork Rop, girlie, I need a Rork Rop" which would initiate riotous laughter in her wondering why I could not say the words right. She, would approach her customer, AKA her Mommy, very gently and say, "Now, you have to say it right. It's Pork Chop." she would repeat very slowly so I could get it right. I would reply, "Girlie, that's just what I said, Rork Rop, now for heaven's sake will you go get me one? I don't have all day." She tried to remedy this incorrect pronunciation many times. Speaking slowly can clearly. Each time I continued to muck it up. Finally, in desperation, she would reply, "Ok, I'm going to go ahead and get it for you but no one else is even going to know what you want unless you start to say this right. We are going to have to work on this."
My daughter is 38 now with four children but the waitress game and all the crazy permutations that originated from her imagination fueled by my own will be with us both for always. The magic of Imagination is endless and constant. Try it out for yourselves.
Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers