Inside Kitty and Elma’s stockings were two little wooden figures, a pale rose angel with big curving wings for Kitty and a little girl in a bright pink dress playing the flute for Elma. We’ve had various blocks and rainbows and waves and all sorts of other things for making castles for a little while but no one to live in them so Father Christmas decided to rectify the situation.
Since then the castle making has really taken off. It used to be that I’d get the blocks out and start building something and only then would the girls start to come and put their stamp on it, but in the last month both girls have started to play much more autonomously. Kitty loves starting with a little loop of our moon houses and then building up up and up and Elma makes little lines of square blocks across the carpet that her little girl hops along.
They still squabble over who is going to get which bricks and if Elma takes too much of an interest in Kit’s latest building project she tends to be met with shrieks of protest, but then there are the times when they play quite happily next to each other, or work together to build one giant castle and I can sit there and know that for these precise 30 seconds of peace I’ve clearly got parenting nailed.
And I get to see what their imaginations can come up with all by themselves. This little castle is Kitty’s, built entirely by herself.
Or at least it’s Kitty’s at that precise moment, these castle are very fluid in their architecture and are constantly being added to until it all falls down and they have to start again.
At that moment Kitty’s angel is tucked up safe and warm in the bedroom (the lower curved green roof pinched out of the middle of the rainbow), the bottom section of moon houses is her house and the top is her garden and a little roof over the top for her to stand under. Moments later the roof had come off, a new wall was built and it started to look rather like a giant multicoloured octopus as slide after slide after slide was added around the edges.
And this afternoon, as Kitty drew, and I sat on the floor playing with Pip, I watched Elma as she leaned against the footstool arranging and rearranging different blocks, dropping the ones she didn’t want back onto the floor and trotting over to the bookcase to stand on tippy toes to reach for Kitty’s angel. She was completely immersed in whatever world she was creating, unusually quiet and clearly so very content. She broke off for supper but as soon as we’d finished she scuttled back to her building and was very loathe to leave it for bath time. It was just wonderful to see her so focussed and involved in her play.
And tomorrow I’m sure there will be another castle.
When I decided to use this year to record not the children but the things that make their childhood I has a feeling that it would never be just about taking pictures of their toys. With most of my Living Arrows pictures last year the picture was only half the story, and this year I think that’s even more true. Because I could happily take a picture of their Duplo with the heading “Duplo, we really really like it around here” and it would be (a) true and (b) give a little hint at what we do on a Saturday morning, but I want these pictures and these words to be a little more than that; to record the stories that go with them; to complete the composition and fill in with words what has just stepped out of the frame.
And some day when all three of them are all grow up and we no longer have a play kitchen and umpteen boxes of bricks in our lounge I know I’ll look back on all of this with nostalgia and be glad to remember it. And if I’m very lucky I might just have a couple of faces peeking over my shoulder to say “I remember those moon houses and the rainbow blocks” – even if it’s almost certainly followed with “you used to pinch them out of my castle when I wasn’t looking!”. Sisters, they don’t forget!