Playing pretend is serious business

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little girl with baby doll

I learned long ago that my favorite humans are those innocent from the caustic and demanding ways of the world. 

Good fortune brought me to a place in mid-week spent with my granddaughter, who is 3, while her older brother was in afternoon preschool. Dressed in a sweater and leggings with a pink taffeta tutu over top, little Landry let me know from the very start that this was going to be an eventful hour or two. She was happy to have me all to herself. 

Though her vocabulary is large, her voice remains tiny, the rolling over of all words that contain the letter R so endearing. Her pronunciation would lead one to believe she hails from Boston, and talking with her always brings joy in abundance. 

My first assignment of the day was to bring two baby dolls to the doctor. “You have to sit over there until I come out and say some words,” she instructed me. Landry quickly appeared from the other side of the sofa to say, “I am ready for you. This way, please,” adding that we should not be scared, because this was a day no one would be getting any shots. 

We took about three steps into the doctor’s office, where both doll babies faced a blue stethoscope and a matching thermometer, which, if twisted just so, revealed a growing red line indicating fever. “Yes, your baby has a big fevah!” I was told in two seconds flat. “Now we have to put bubblegum in both of her ears,” Dr. Landry informed me with sincerity. 

Well, that got my attention. The adult in me felt compelled to put a big warning sign over such an outlandish thought. Without a word said, Landry picked up on my alarm. “Don’t wo-wee,” the tiny blue-eyed girl said in a whispery voice, leaning close, her hand beside her mouth as if sharing a big secret. “This is just pwetend.” 

Within the space of 15 minutes, we played a lifetime of roles. We left the doctor’s office and went to our farm on the other side of the living room where Dr. Landry became a veterinarian in high demand. 

“Nice to meet you!” she would say to each imaginary interaction. With all vaccinations complete, the animals were tucked into stalls where they would be warm and safe. The clients we tended included a cow, an elephant, a giraffe and many horses. There were self-sufficient ducks that did not need a thing, because “they eat bugs and drink water from muddy puddles.” 

Suddenly the farm transformed, becoming a grocery store, then a kitchen, and eventually a beauty salon. My hair was pushed in every possible direction, a tube of chapstick brightened my cheeks, and my nails received way more attention than usual, painted pink with an imaginary brush. We were now ready to dance. 

The children’s animated movie Encanto provided the setting for our dance studio, filled with music that will never leave my head. Already exhausted, I begged out of dancing through the opening credits by claiming I did not have a magic tutu like Landry. “OK, but you have to watch me so you know the next dance,” I was told with a great big smile. 

There is no fear this instruction will not be followed. As I watched the twirling, whirling dervish that is my granddaughter, her angel-fine blonde hair flying about, my heart so full it could burst, I wished to hold the moment for a lifetime. 

I know the day will come when newfound friends and a great big world will push me aside, but in this season, Landry sparkles as she runs to me with open arms every single time she sees me. She cries when it is time for me to leave, arms around my neck, her head on my shoulder, saying, “I don’t want you to go, Gigi.” The tears are very real, the sentiment sincere. 

I intend to hold on tight, watching closely, knowing this season will fade like all good scenes in life always do, the curtain rising on yet another opening act. I hope to hold a ticket in the front row.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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