Friday, August 03, 2018

"I Want A House"

The wire and fabric "Play Huts" can be folded flat for storage and that is the condition they were in on the table at the top of the hill along with the collapsable wire and fabric tunnels, likewise condensed. I released one of the tunnels with a flourish, allowing it to launch dramatically from my hands like a large spring, sort of shooting it down the hill, landing it on the head of one of the children who laughed at the surprise.

Behind me, however, the children were less joyful, rushing the table asserting, "I want a house," each taking a flattened square. There are only six of the huts, two large ones and four smaller. The supply ran out quickly. When the seventh child came up saying, "I want a house," I said, "That's all there are. I guess you'll have to figure out a way to share."

This was a dissatisfying circumstance for all but the six children who were now wrestling with their houses, trying to transform them from two to three-dimensional playthings. Some managed it on their own, while I helped others, and soon there were six kids sitting in six huts with a half dozen other kids standing on the outside looking in. Some of the outsiders dropped to their knees in an effort to crowd in only to be scolded, "No! This is my house!"

I said, "There are three tunnels that no one is using," motioning toward them, but only the huts were in demand.

After several minutes of turf defense, including some yelling, one of the kids cried out to me, "Look, Teacher Tom, we're sharing!" And sure enough I saw two faces smiling out from within one hut. I said, "You are!" If I was expecting that the other hut hoarders would see the wisdom in this solution, I was disappointed as they continued to bicker and bawl until they had chased most of the younger children away, leaving them all together, separate, sitting cross legged, not willing to leave their huts lest they be commandeered by squatters.

That is with the exception of the two who were sharing their hut. They were scheming and planning and playing, speaking sentences that began with, "Let's pretend . . . " and ended with "okay?" They were not in fear of losing their hut because one of them could always be left behind while the other scavenged around for loose parts they could deploy as household items. "Pretend this is our bed, okay?" "Pretend this is where we keep our books, okay?"

One of them dragged an abandoned tunnels over, saying, "This can be how we get in." He connected it to one of the four sides of their hut. By now, neither of them were spending any time inside of their hut, but were rather busying themselves with the game, collecting their furnishings, discussing their plans. They had no fear of losing their space to an interloper because all the potential interlopers were protecting their huts, unable to do anything but sit.

At one point, one of the partners said while considering the tunnel they had connected as an entryway, "I wish this connected to something."

There was a long silence, then a hopeful voice came from one of the separate fortresses, "You can connect to my house." This was agreed upon and enacted, which then lead to another of the solitary children calling out "You can connect to my house." So they did, using another tunnel. And then another asked to be included, then another. Soon they had pushed their huts together, connecting them with the tunnels, crawling from space to space, chattering, declaring one another "best friends," and employing sentences that began with "Let's pretend" and ended with "okay?"

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