When I was a kid I could play house all day long. I was a tomboy, but man did I love to play house! At day care, my friends and I setup house in the wooden playhouse under huge old Oak outside. We made beds out of wood chips and leaves, dishes and utensils out of sticks and acorn caps. Each day I crossed my fingers I didn’t have to be the dad again, nobody wanted to be the dad. We all wanted to be the mom, the one who was in charge and got to hold the babies (dolls).
At my grandparents’ house in Northern Wisconsin, it was the cool, dark space underneath the big low-hanging branches of the pine trees. Instead of acorns and wood chips, it was pine needles and bark pieces. All I needed was a blanket, my dolls and a little picnic and I was set for an afternoon of playing house.
At home in my backyard, I waited for my parents to mow the lawn. Then I piled the grass clippings into rough room outlines and made a big pile for a bed and shaped piles into couches and chairs (I never said I was normal). From the sky it must have looked like an amateur corn maze. I’m not sure the neighbor kids wanted to play house this way, but they played along. Any way you look at it, I loved to play house and I loved to play house outside.
Adults Can Play House, Too?
Last week as I unearthed our long abandoned camping equipment in the garage, I started thinking about why I like camping so much. As I happily unpacked and organized the speckled enamel dishes and utensils, the lantern, the book of campfire stories, sleeping bags and sleeping rolls, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, it was like unpacking Christmas ornaments. The camping containers were bursting with memories, like the time it rained non-stop and my husband and I spent three days smooshed into a pup tent or the time my brother and I narrowly escaped from the biggest snapping turtle I ever saw.
Looking at all the supplies and equipment I unpacked, it dawned on me why I adore camping so much. It’s basically the adult version of playing house. With a tent or a camper (The deluxe version of playing house!) and few basic supplies we’re basically setting up a playhouse for the weekend. Organizing everything just so, putting everything in its place as you unpack… No wonder I love it so!
Maybe it’s not like playing house for you. Maybe it’s more like building a fort or imagining you’re a young Laura Ingalls Wilder. For some of you I suspect it’s a little bit about conquering the great outdoors. It’s a bit of all of these for me (except the conquering). Deep down it’s because it’s because I can be a child again. It’s one of the few times in life that the only things I need to worry about are simple things like food, water and shelter (and keeping the tent zipped so we don’t have to sleep with the mosquitos). When I zip myself into my sleeping bag after a long day of camping, my head isn’t spinning with thoughts of things I didn’t get done. I just feel satisfied to have played, instead of worked, at something.
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