Vn014.1

Housekeeping Corner

5/24 & 27/77


Since Miriam started recounting where she spends her time in kindergarten (see Vignette 12), it has become clear that she spends most of her time in the ‘housekeeping corner.’ When I’ve been in the kindergarten class, I’ve usually found myself playing with blocks, or making designs and elaborate towers from Cuisenaire rods. Miriam has frequently played otherwheres. I have seen her there, curled up in the baby carriage, but I’ve had no good idea of what games she and her friends invented for that location.

That question received a major clarification today while Miriam was stringing beads for necklaces. I had given her a Bic pen cap to poke the string through the beads. After she learned the cap was from an exhausted pen, Miriam began this conversation:

Miriam Can I keep the cap?
Bob Sure.
Miriam Thank you. Tomorrow I’m going to take it to school.
Bob The cap?
Miriam Yeah.
Bob What for?
Miriam Because we usually play Doctor, there in the housekeeping corner.
Bob Un-huh.
Miriam And we give each other pretend shots.
Bob Oh my goodness. You’r not really going to poke anybody with that, are you?
Miriam No (you silly Daddy).
Bob But that will be your needle?
Miriam Yes. Sometimes we use pencils.
Bob I hope nobody ever gets hurt.
Miriam We don’t.
Bob Good. . . I think that’s kind of funny. That you have a house-keeping corner and you play Doctor. Is that because everybody likes giving shots?
Miriam Yeah.
Bob Does anybody like getting shots?
Miriam No. We always run away from the Doctors.
Bob Well, who’s the Doctors. . .or does it change?
Miriam It changes. We run away ’cause we don’t want our shots.
Bob Yeah.
Miriam We always have it in the summer. We run away because we don’t want it and the door’s always open in the summer.
Bob You mean the door to the kindergarten? Or the housekeeping
corner, a pretend door?
Miriam A pretend door to the housekeeping corner. It’s always open so we run right out.

One fact, of possible relevance in initially suggesting the game to the children, though not at all accounting for its continued interest, is that Dara’s mother is a nurse. Dara and Maria are the two girls Miriam most plays with in kindergarten.

After we focussed a while on the beads, I resumed the theme of the housekeeping corner by attacking the game of ‘Doctor.’

Bob I still think it’s kind of silly that you play Doctor in the housekeeping corner. Do Doctors come to houses or something?
Miriam Sometimes they do.
Bob Don’t you ever play anything else? Or is it always shot giving?
Miriam We like the Doctor but sometimes we play House of the Wicked Witch.
Bob Wicked Witch? How’s that go? I never heard of that. Is that
like something from the Wizard of Oz? Or a different wicked
witch?
Miriam From the Wizard of Oz.
Bob Does anybody know the song or what?
Miriam I and Dara know the song.
Bob You and Dara?
Miriam And Maria
Bob How’s it go? “La la the wicked, la la the wicked witch, la la the wicked witch is dead”? No? That’s not the song?
Miriam No. It’s about the Wizard.
Bob Oh. We’re off to see the Wizard?
Miriam Yeah.
Bob The wonderful Wizard of Oz?
Miriam Yeah.

It’s clear that my wicked witch was she of the west upon whom did fall Dorothy’s house. In retrospect, I’m sure the children think more of the Witch of the East, she commander of flying apes and profoundly allergic to water. No dancing Munchkins for them.

6/27 Miriam arranged for Dara to come play at our house today. Because Miriam expected to come to Logo, I asked her if she intended to bring Dara with her and wondered whether Dara would want to come. Miriam responded that she could get Dara to come to Logo by telling her it was a good place to play Wicked Witch. I had no idea why this was so.

Dara and Miriam at lunch told me a little more of Wicked Witch, not clearly perhaps but enough to reveal what sorts of sides and tensions exist. They mentioned that the boys build spaceships in the kindergarten and should they be left unattended, the girls play Wicked Witch, swoop down on the spaceships, and keep the boys away. This, I saw too late, was relevant to Logo’s being a good place to play Wicked Witch. Robby and Sam have been playing war games in the Learning Lab, building barricades or trenches from unoccupied chairs. When Miriam and Dara seized the momentarily unoccupied trenches, I realized from the commotion how Wicked Witch was being applied at Logo.

Gretchen informs me that while the children played at home, most of their time was spent playing Doctor in the tree fort.

Relevance

Both Doctor and Wicked Witch are highly mobile fantasies which appear to be role centered with improvised skits focused on dramatic actions: giving and getting needles; seizing somebody else’s place. From outside the kindergarten, the setting dependence of the games I speculate to be primarily in the nature of a space allocation. The girls play in the housekeeping corner. They use it as their home base for whatever fantasies they can construct with a sufficiency of roles for themselves.