PLAY Time!

play, dance, writeI will never forget the time I made my mother-in-law (MIL) laugh.

She was a sweet, kind, quiet mother of seven children and grandmother of a growing brood. She smiled and cooed, she cooked and cared for all, but for the first years I knew her, she never laughed.

Until I stomped.

Do any of you remember the song, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”?

Well, my MIL certainly didn’t. Nor did my sisters-in-law/brothers-in-law who happened to be in the living room with the two of us when the song came on.

play, beach, summer, Ocean City NJ

Beach Play.

Why we were listening to an oldies station, I can’t remember. Why nine of us were in the small room on a grumpy April afternoon, I have no idea. 

play, bath, grandparenting

Bath Play.

But I see the sun scuttling into the gray blue room, directing a beam on me when suddenly a song on the radio makes me erupt into a gleeful squeak and I begin to stomp.

The years roll away and I’m back in the 8th grade dance when Susie Owen teaches me the toe-heel step, almost skip-like but staying in place, definitely a joyful happy dance.

play, dressing up, 1940s style

Dress Up Play.

But my dancing memories and concentration are interrupted by a huge roaring belly laugh. I look up in surprise. In the corner armchair sits my quiet serene mother-in-law, laughing so hard her eyes are full of astonishment at the sounds she’s making.

play, bike, learning how to bike, parenting

Bike play.

Her adult children stand in shocked silence first, and then they all begin to laugh as I continue the stomp.

I wonder briefly if they’re laughing AT me or WITH me.

But I don’t care.

My mother-in-law is laughing!

play, playground, fun

Playground play.

This April morning, 15 years later, I reminisce about the importance of play. My guess is that there was too little of it in my MIL’s life. Her laughter at my dance was a gut-wrenching reaction to the courage of another adult to get out there and   P  L  A  Y. Many of us are so ingrained in thinking play is only for children, but really, we adults need it even more.

For instance, I find myself dancing sometimes while waiting in line at the grocery store.

play, Clearwater FL, friends

Big Chair Play.

Or, if I’m not quite as cheerful some days, I stand in the yogic tree pose, one foot on my knee, the other foot grounded on the floor while the clerk whisks through my asparagus and canned soup, my pasta and paper towels.

Playing makes the wait and the chores so much more fun.

And you know how some of us are afraid to say we have “fun” at work?

play, children play, ball

Ball Play.

What’s with that? I love my hours of sitting in front of the computer, writing. I admit, it’s play time for me.

play, beach, children

Upside Down Play.

My blogging friend Mike Allegra (heylookawriterfellow) has found that besides writing, he doodles for fun. And he’s surprised to find out that his followers absolutely love his doodles. He’s up to his ears in doodling for work…and P L A Y.

How about you? How do you play? And… are you playing enough? 

 

doddling, Mike Allegra, play, writing

Writing Wight Plays with Dog Muse in Sunshine, by writer and doodler, Mike Allegra.

86 thoughts on “PLAY Time!

  1. I love Mike’s “doodle” above. I romp and play with Honcho in the neighborhood parks daily. The more I do it the more I crave having playtime. Sometimes I feel silly, and when I do, I’ll instead appear to be a serious jogger training my dog to run obediently by my side, but secretly we are just having a good time together 🙂

    • Dogs give us many, many gifts, but one of the most important ones is the gift of play. It is near impossible to not be playful with a pup. Honcho is so lucky to have you as a playmate.

  2. It sounds like your play brought on a fantastic reaction. I wonder what the others said to you afterwards considering they were surprised too.
    I think I play quite a lot but my real time is when I’m getting music for the blog from youtube at night, with my headphones on I sing along to everything I know but I confess it’s not always in tune. Luckily with headphones on I don’t hear any dogs howl.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • I notice averted eyes when I dance and play in ‘public places,’ but the good thing about getting older – I don’t care!
      I can certainly see you singing and moving along as you select your blog songs. I tried to comment on your last post, but could never get through – I think all those song links soaked up all my power! But I enjoyed the post immensely. xoxoxplayfulhugxoxoxo

  3. What a feel-good post! I love that you made your MIL laugh. That’s probably something she remembered for a long time, too, and I bet the memory made her smile. Great pics and a great doodle by Mike, too. 🙂

  4. What a great doodle my Mike!

    Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but when I feel like being silly and playing, I tend to sing and dance around in front of my dogs. I love the look on their faces – sort of like ‘what the heck?’ Then excited, all three of them start barking and following me about the room. 😀

    • I’m so glad to see you here! I think playing helps us get our figurative finger out of our butts (paraphrasing your last post…!) and gets us motivated to create too, don’t you? And a laughing dog (or two) can’t hurt. That’s why I’m so glad Mike included my smiling dog muse in his doodle. 🙂

      • I always like to stop by and see what you’re doing. One of my favorite stops in the blogosphere. By the way, I checked out Mike’s blog – I enjoyed his writing and his doodling. 🙂

  5. I always try to take time for play of some sort. Some of it involves my hobbies, choir practice is always play time. I miss it that my grand kids are grown up now because I loved to play with them. In this dark world, play is absolutely essential.

    • Yes, I laugh the most and the hardest when I’m with my grandkids. Probably because they so obviously love to see me enjoying myself with them. And that means, to them, that I like being with them. So (thinking out loud), we should play with others more often – they’ll see it as a compliment!

  6. Pam, What a wonderful memory of making your mother-in-law laugh!
    This is the third article I have read lately about the importance of PLAY…do you think someone is trying to tell me something??? Your article made me think of my nieces, who are both on dance teams, who dance all the time, even during conversations when the adults are just sitting around talking…I definitely need to put more PLAY in my life, even if it is just with my cats (they would be happy about that!)…thanks for the smile today and the reminder.

    • Soooooooo, are you playing right now? I think animals have a natural inclination to play, and we can learn from them. Here’s another way to put the play into your life – skip! I do that sometimes (when I’m alone, I admit). Skipping just makes you happy, that’s all there is to it.

  7. Play is so very important for all ages. Years ago there was play time in kindergarten. I remember my teacher friend had a dress up corner in her room. The children all had time to play in the classroom and outside on the playground. Now there is NO TIME for play at school. It makes me so sad for the children. They need that time just as much as the academics.
    I find that I play with my dogs almost daily. I get on the floor in my bedroom and we play tug of war. The little one likes to play, “I’m goin’ get you”. They love it and so do I. Your blog post sparked a lot of good comments. Keep “playing” on your computer.

    • When my writing seems like too much ‘work,’ I dance up and down the stairs (really!) with the radio up loud. Then the creative juices start moving again. That’s why, just as you say, it should be a law that children get to PLAY during the day.
      And we adults would probably have a darn good time playing dress up in the corner every day, too. 🙂

  8. I probably don’t play enough…too worried about humiliating my friends or family I guess. I should say -to heck with it. I do play and dance and get stupid in the privacy of my own home. My son (now 34) plays a lot and in public. I’m proud of him for that.

    • Hey, part of the fun IS humiliating your friends and family! Then we say to them, “what is embarrassing about your grown-up mom having fun???!!’ Go for it, Karen. Your son probably learned his love of play from his mom.

  9. Mike’s doodles are so fab aren’t they, I love them! He’s challenged me to do a doodle for a blog post soon to help me get out of my blogging funk, so watch this space! Well, not THIS space, you know, MY space (but not MySpace). It’s probably not a surprise to you (well I hope it’s not a surprise) that I like to play – I don’t like to play set proper games particularly, but I like just being silly whenever I can! My other half Neil and I sometimes break into impromptu musicals in the kitchen when we’re cooking together, maybe starting off with something catchy like “You peel the potatoes while I pour the wine!” repeated several times, with accompanying dance moves, which just like on TV, we manage to coordinate as if it had been previous choreographed – you can totally imagine in can’t you!

    • You are one of my blogging mentors on play. I have been shy about adding funny photos of myself, but then I check out how much fun you have on your blog (with photos AND posts) and I encourage myself to go for it. THANK YOU. And I can’t wait to see your Mike-inspired doodle.
      Okay, I have to go – it’s time to (hum along with me here…), pour the wine and peel the potatoes (notice, I changed the order of my tune).

  10. Awesome reminder Pamela! We spend so much time as adults being “responsible” that we forget to get out and play. It’s certainly different things for different people. But, whatever it is that makes you feel like you are “playing”, we all deserve (and NEED) to get out and do it! For me, writing is definitely my playing – I feel like a kid in a candy shop and I can’t wait to sample everything on the shelves in front of me. I just started an online writing course and there’s another thing that is important about playing – do it with others who enjoy the same things you do. Playing is fun, but playing with others and sharing it with them – even more so! 🙂

    • Congrats on joining (and playing) with a writing group. My writing got better when I joined a group, and even better when I began to teach a writing class. Not because I’m a great teacher, but because we read our stories out loud in class, and learn SO MUCH from each other’s writings. Not only that, we laugh and play in our classes – which relaxes us into even better writing. Have fun!

  11. I think it’s wonderful you made your mother-in-law laugh. That’s magic. She must have loved you more after that. I love to hear a deep belly laugh, which really starts at your toes and moves all the way up.

    I hum a lot, tonelessly and dance for my grand kids but make sure I’m out of beat. Ha ha.

    • Unfortunately I don’t often hear Pretty Little Angel Eyes, even on the ‘oldies’ station. Thank goodness for Pandora.. and singing inside our heads. Mike’s doodle is right on because guess what song he loves? Yup, Pretty Little Angel Eyes.

  12. You took me right back to the PHS gym that would positively shake with the sounds of all of us stomping to Pretty Little Angel Eyes, The Bristol Stomp, etc! Such fun!
    I also sing and dance along with oldies in the car. My daughter was with me last week in the car and we cranked up the radio to There’s Something About You, Baby by the Four Tops and shimmied our shoulders in time to the music as our daughters/granddaughters squealed with delight in the backseat!
    I just read an article that it’s important to surprise young children when playing with them. We surprised the kids with loud music and dancing in the car and they loved it. When teaching preschool I also while playing duck, duck, goose turned the wrong way and scooped the little one up and ran around the circle with them in my arms to giggles all around.
    Fun is good! Play is necessary! It also relieves stress…on the way home from burying my Mom we had a caravan of 3 family cars going down the NJ turnpike when our daughter took a selfie of herself making a funny face and texted it to all! The rest of the nondrivers then did the same one by one and when we met at a rest stop, we were all hugging and laughing.
    When you stop playing is when you get old…..
    Absolutely love Mike’s doodle of you and hope you print it out and frame it!
    xxxooo!

    • So many good subjects here, Carla. First, the PHS gym dances. Oh my, did we realize how much fun we were having then? Second, yes, singing and dancing (in the seat) in the car is tantamount to making kids smile. I do it often, like you. And third, your caravan story after your mom’s burial – oh my, you write it so well I can see the entire scene. It’s beautiful and amazing.
      I’ve ordered the doodle frame! “Museum-quality” glass, too. 🙂

  13. Pam, thank you so much for this post. I used to play a lot more than I do now. Play is essential for our well being. My playing now happens in the kitchen when I play with food and have fun. But I will add more dancing and being silly and “who knows what else” to my daily routine.
    I love all those pictures and the doodle is darling…….

  14. The doodle is wonderful. I loved it. And he included Henry. 🙂 I agree about the play time. I’ve lightened up quite a bit over the past few years since having a child in the house. (It’s her 9th birthday today!) She’s got me talking in funny voices, ballroom dancing with her around the living room, and singing in the grocery store while we shop. I haven’t gotten to the dancing while I shop yet though. Don’t know if I will. She dances in the store and puts a smile on the faces of others. She was singing a Whitney Houston song that had come on over the audio in JC Penney the other day and a woman smiled as she walked by. That’s play at its best. Hopefully, she doesn’t lose that.

    Have a great day, Pam. 🙂

  15. Tapping into our inner child is something we don’t do enough. I agree. I feel most playful when I dance and sing aloud while I walk. I feel so free and people around me don’t expect it of a 57 year old woman. Mostly I get smiles and “thumbs up” from passers by. Mostly… 😉

  16. I totally agree that we need to play more. It’s especially fun, when I can let go of the adult filters and be spontaneous like your dancing with glee.
    To play and nurturing our inner spirit. 🙂 Thanks, Brad

  17. Oh, gosh, Pam. Remember how the wooden floor of the gym just thundered with our stomps to “Pretty…?” I’ve been adding songs to the playlist for the reunion and forgot that one! It will now be added! Play is absolutely important–especially at our age. Laughing is the best feeling in the world, except perhaps for looking at a grandchild that you’ve made laugh. I’ve been very happy to be a fool or a jester for my kids and grand kids and now that they are all grown, we laugh at those Memories of mamaw’s silliness.

    • I remember the stomping wood floor ( the best kind for dancing) and your constant smiles, also! I have no doubt you’re a very fun mom and grandmom. Now, please excuse me, I have some more stomping to do… 🙂

  18. I was about 12-years-old and one Sunday my mom danced in place (a little) in the pew in church. It was back in the early days of folk music at services instead of stodgy hymns in Latin. I was totally mortified. Guess who caught herself dancing (a little) in the grocery store the other day when a catchy tune was over the loud speaker. Me. I have turned into my mother.

  19. Making your MIL laugh must have felt like a monumental occasion. I think that day probably made you even happier after seeing your MIL laugh.

    I don’t dance to music anymore but I did until about 6 years ago. One day I just stopped. Maybe I’d feel a bit better if I danced again. It certainly helps with remaining flexible and agile.

    • GO FOR IT!! Do a stomp, or a skip, or just dance in place. For some reason, it just lifts the mood up a notch.
      And yes, I never saw my MIL as a mother-in-law after her belly laugh. She became a friend.

  20. You know, it is so obvious that you’re a Player. Ha ha ha, no I didn’t mean to type that. (Sometimes I play with words.) I LOVE to dance and delight in dancing around the house in odd & joyful ways, but have always been too shy to dance in public. You are a teacher for us! Maybe all your readers will be dancing in the supermarket aisles this week. 🙂

    • I am such a ‘playa,’ for sure. Your fantasy of many of us, in different parts of the world, dancing in the grocery aisles makes me feel absolutely joyful. May it be so (including YOU, my blogging friend).

  21. Amen!

    Play is so very important. It refreshes your mind, cleanses your soul, and seduces your creative muse.

    Once upon a time, when I was in my late 30s, my mom summoned me to her house to clean out my childhood closet. As soon as I discovered my old Erector set, I put the job on hold, flopped onto the floor, and proceeded to build a race car of my own design. It was a joyful experience.

    And, if I do say so myself, my car was pretty kick ass.

    On another note, are you telling me that NO ONE in your family knew the song Pretty Little Ange Eyes? It’s a crime! Or at least it’s a misdemeanor. I love that song!

    And thank you, my friend, for posting your doodle. I’m so glad you like it.

    • Ah, I can just picture you in the corner of your old room putting together a cool Erector car. I watch my son-in-law play Legos with his 5-year-old Clark and can tell which one is getting the most fun out of it. And it’s not the kid.
      As far as the lack of musical appreciation in part of my family tree? What can I say? I keep trying to educate them, and they just keep laughing at me. Sigh.
      Still stomping in satisfaction over your so so cool doodle (you don’t know how many have told me how much they’ve enjoyed seeing it). I just put it on my “About Rough Wighting” folder also. It shows/says all about me and my writing.

  22. In my teens we often sat at the back of the bus singing all the songs we knew, oblivious to anyone else. After I’d been teaching for a few years, I’d find myself singing the instructions to the students instead of speaking to the. It would instantly lighten the mood, and the connection to the kids grew because of it.

    There was a period of time where the kids were really distracted by magic cards and as a teacher, I resented the distraction. One day during a break one of the students asked me if I wanted one of his cards. Instead of being sullen, I asked what its powers were and then suddenly within that instant every child was interested in sharing their knowledge with me. By playing with them for a few minutes, all the negativity went away…and surprisingly, so did the distraction. That was a very important lesson for me and worked wonders in getting to know my grandson when I went out to visit.

    Over the past two years I have made play an emphasis in my life and routinely sing and dance when I clean. I’m painting now, playing in parks and very recently decided to learn how to sail.

    Play equals having a good time and I have never known anyone to regret having a good time and enjoying them-self.

    • Play equals having a good time, yes, but it seems that play also means opening up others to our world, and we to them, as you did with your students. Play means we view each other in lightness and love instead of mistrust and crankiness. Play means you are having a darn good time now, with painting and sailing and dancing in the parks. I salute you!

    • I think a traveler is also a ‘player,’ don’t you? I wish I had a bit more playfulness in me that way, in which I could feel free to travel to other lands and learn/play with the lives there. I enjoy seeing you play in your blog.

      • You bring up a very good point that I have never given too much thought. Yes I love ‘playing’ and when traveling am not afraid to try the language, the food ( eyeballs excluded), the culture. Yes that makes traveling all the richer. I appreciate your thoughtful comment very much.

  23. Love the description of a “grumpy April afternoon”. I’ve experienced a couple of those, but never knew how to categorize them; now I know. My forte is certainly not dancing or doodling (love that doodle of you by Mike by the by). However, what possesses me from time to time is when an oldie comes on my car radio. Something like “Brown Eyed Girl” just flows into my soul and I become possessed. I turn up the radio and roll the windows down and blare out my rendition to the consternation of my fellow drivers. It matters not, I can’t control myself. When the song ends I feel so emotionally drained but with a lightness of spirit that makes my heart sing.

    • Why has Brown Eyed Girl lived all of this time? It’s one of my favorites too, and means youth, play, summers, high school dances, good memories, and singing to babies (yup, I used to sing this to mine, even though neither were brown-eyed, and one of them wasn’t a girl!). And from now on, whenever I sing (and dance) to Brown Eyed Girl, I’ll think of you, Chuck. With a HUGE smile and lightness of being.

    • We both know writing means WORK, but how neat that we also know that it needs to be PLAY. That’s why I call my writing classes “Creative Writing for Fun.” If we don’t enjoy it, it’s not going to be good. Plain and simple.
      As far as playing in the grocery store? Makes the drudgery so much more fun. 🙂

  24. What a lovely post that touched me somewhere between 37 and 5 years old and every age between. What a huge gift you gave your MIL. I couldn’t agree with you more. Yesterday I played on the beach, I paddled, I collected shells, I played chase with the waves as they ran at and away from me…it dropped years from my face and tonnes from my shoulders. I LOVE to play! Happy hugs, Harula xxx

    • Playing in/with/around the ocean is one of my prime spots also. Loved reading about HOW you got to your play place in your blog. Playing can be a good ‘clean,’ environmentally-friendly activity, huh? 🙂

  25. Wonderful post. Adults seem to lose the ability to play. I had a friend of mine tell me he had never played as a child because he grew up working a farm with his father. I had to sit down and think where I could take him where he could learn to play…

  26. Sometimes I think of myself as the most immature adult in the world. I like playing so much that I made it my job to play. I played tennis for years and was paid for it. Isn’t it nice?

    Thank you for such a great article reminding us that playful attitude makes work easier.

    Kimberly

    • Thank you for commenting here on PLAY! Here in New England, I’ve noticed an attitude that play is bad. In CA, where I lived for years, play is good. The weather may have something to do with it, since in CA you can play tennis, walk, run, swim – year round. I certainly know that my face and my body look much more relaxed and younger when I add play to my repertoire! 🙂

  27. What a great story, Pam and all these images are wonderful…but that one of Jerry in the bathtub is priceless! I play all the time since I retired…and come to think of it, I played A LOT as a preschool teacher…it was in my job description. 🙂

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