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by Peggy La Vake, AARP Bulletin, October 22, 2010
In the days before we were swallowed by technology, we still had the Art of Make-Believe. With no TV, videos, cellphones or computers, we were free to be who and what we wanted. We knew nothing different. It was a delicious time to be a child.
Before a TV came into our home, my brother and I spent Saturday mornings in a large cardboard box, with holes cut through to give us visibility and a good view of an imaginary ocean. Because it was a Saturday and we were being especially good, our mother would wave goodbye as she handed us a crisp cellophane sleeve of Chips Ahoy cookies, nourishment until we reached our next port of call. The adventure took us through storms that left us stranded on exotic islands, or drifting helplessly at sea. It really didn't matter, because we were content with this simplicity. With a horse made from a broomstick and a sock filled with old rags, I'd saddle up and ride off into the forest, a little oasis of pine trees at the end of our dead-end street. In the 1950s, we did not live with the fear of being abducted, we simply lived, with a purity unimaginable in today's world. I'd wave goodbye to my mother, who would wish me a safe journey with the parting words, "Be home by lunchtime."
By the age of 12, I still hung on to make-believe while my classmates began to prefer the company of boys. I built a submarine in our basement with a bunk bed and a periscope made out of cardboard toilet paper tubes. It was my private place. My hideaway. But soon came puberty and peer pressure and all the social expectations that rob us of innocence. It became more difficult to make believe, as if it were something shameful. I look around today and wonder if our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to use their innate creativity that blossoms when life is simple.
I fear it may be too late.
Peggy La Vake is a reader from Cedar Grove, N.J.
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