Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life lessons from the castle

Once upon a time, in a land far away, some jumbo cardboard crates were filled with appliances and sent to the United States of America, where they made their way to our house. The boxes were cut into lovely large pieces of cardboard and set aside, full of potential for any number of activities.

The princess and the knight-defender-cook (and the iPad)
At first, two slabs of cardboard were used as side-by-side play areas for building Lego sets. They kept each child's pieces separate from the other's. Equally important, they provided a neutral background where the tiny pieces won't be lost against the pattern of the living-room carpet. They worked so well that we knew they'd be around as long as there are children and new Lego sets.

Meanwhile the children propped the cardboard against furniture and crawled beneath, pretending to be muskrats hiding from predators. Their structures grew taller and became a fort. Grandpa found more slabs and it became a castle where one child is usually a fantasy princess and the other a knight fiercely protecting against armies of invaders.

Defensive weapons April 2012
The castle roof was flat at first. The knight-defender would fortify it with all kinds of improvised weapons and vehicles. These were heavy and the structure unstable, so the whole thing often crashed to the floor without warning.
New improved Cardboard Castle

Enter Velcro. Grandpa has made the castle stronger but we can still collapse it, to clean or to allow grownups to use the living room or to use the pieces flat when new Legos arrive. He also made the whole thing a little bigger and expanded the roof so it can be either flat or peaked. At the children's request, he added a row of windows (for defense, they said), a "secret" back door, inside and outside latches on the main door, and a room divider.

Some food and dishes
The children immediately filled every bit of space, hauling in pillows, blankets, chairs, and their play food and cooking implements. The castle is down right now, but when it's rebuilt the knight-defender wants to leave out the room divider so he can bring in the table that matches their chairs. That's because the knight often cooks for himself and the princess. They talk over their "meals" and their conversations are increasingly interesting.

A week ago, I crept into the living room and sat on the couch listening in. As quickly as he could invent a dish, she would toss it out the window to feed the dragons. He was beginning to get impatient with this generosity. I tuned out for a while, and then I heard this from the knight-defender-cook:

"Vi, you can't live on rainbows. That's why I'm making bread."

She is a rainbow girl, a dreamer, a child who tells you in the same breath that she knows dragons are make-believe and that yes, she wants a real one for a pet. He is a different kind of dreamer, with an imagination that expresses itself more concretely in Lego inventions and a complete menu and business plan for the smoothie shop he wants to run some day.

I love his declaration, because it shows the contrast between them, and because it encapsulates one of the balances we all need to strive for. Let's do what we need to do, and let's have a few rainbows along the way.

This post is linked to the GRAND Social. Follow the link to meet more blogging grandparents.


DJan said...

What a lovely statement about the differences in these two, each with his or her approach to life intact. What a lot of fun you are all having! :-)

Far Side of Fifty said...

What fun! It is marvelous to stir such imagination! You will have to get Augie into Lego League as soon as he is old enough. My son in law does Lego League and Vex..both great programs for "builders":)

Jeanie said...

What a good job Grandpa did on the new improved cardboard castle....a wonderful place for many scenes to play out. I love your descriptions and insight on the different outlooks on life these two have.

Pearl said...

Oh, how wonderful. :-)

I remember when my parents got a fridge... I was about 6, and me and my brother and sister made a house out of that big box... Cardboard is the stuff of dreams.


Grandmother Mary said...

I like your prescription at the end. And I love how you sing praises for their differences. I especially love Augie's advice to Vi, practical boy that he is! Made me smile. Last year my granddaughter said to me- I want to be a princess, but a real princess! Meanwhile, I say care for those dragons!

stephen Hayes said...

A childhood friend always had the best boxes to play with. I once asked him where he got such great boxes and he told me his dad was a mortician. The boxes had held coffins.

Unknown said...

Oh how fun - and what a smart idea to make it portable. We rescued two big furniture boxes from the neighbor's trash and the grandkids had a blast with them for most of the winter. But when spring and outside fun came, the boxes - totally falling apart by then - went the way of the wind. :) Now they are older so new fun keeps us busy - and all are the things of sweet memories for all of us grandparents! Have a blessed week and a grand social!

Linda Myers said...

What a great post! I was reading along and remembering the forts under our dining room table.

Unknown said...

I smiled all the way through this post! What a wonderful castle they have -- I wish I had one like that! Plus they have such a great relationship! Thanks for sharing. Just stopping by from the GRAND Social.

AiringMyLaundry said...


My daughter would LOVE that castle!

Granny-Guru said...

what a great comment and contrast! It's so great to be able to listen in. I love what everyone has done with the cardboard!

Jeanie said...

I love this post so much. What wonderful kids and how important to have that imagination. You must smile often where they are concerned!

Green Monkey said...

can't stop smiling! what a great post and the dragon wish... truly priceless. I have been wishing for a fairy my whole life and I don't care if they're not real.

SarahBeth said...

Oh this is FABULOUS! I was entirely bowled over by the brilliance of the Velcro.... and then the rainbow statement appeared! I'm still laughing! Aren't kids' imaginations wonderful!

Pauline Persing said...

Might be fun to live on rainbows for a while but I like the idea of bread when I am hungry. Loved the post.


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