Housekeeping Corner (3)
In her race to the school bus this morning, Miriam left behind a present for her friend Maria and scripts for the play rehearsal (see Vignette 19). When I entered the kindergarten about 9 (which means the children had finished their quiet reading time and the general class meeting), I saw Miriam and several friends playing in the “math” area. This area is defined by a table and a cupboard which is laden with toys such as cuisenaire rods, blocks, geometric puzzles, et cetera. The children were playing with Willy Fangel’s “Connector Set,” a sort of oversized tinker toy collection of rods and 4″ wooden disks. All the disks were in use — as lollipops. Three or four children pretended to eat these wooden lollipops and were squabbling over the distribution. As the newest entrant to their group I was given one by Elizabeth, a friend I knew from Miriam’s birthday party, visits to our house, and my previous visits to the kindergarten. I took another disk and then claimed my lollipop was great because it had candy on both ends. A few imitations later the children were using their dumbbells to show how strong they were.
When I gave to Miriam the present she had made for Maria, that interrupted the play. Miriam explained it was a going away present she had made for Maria (her closest friend and a frequent visitor at our house) who will soon be returning with her family to Spain. The present was, of course, to be opened immediately. After Maria saw her U-Bake-It Owl, she and Miriam discussed what presents Maria would give her in return and when.
A migration then began to the housekeeping corner. The children asked me to join their play to be the Daddy. I agreed on condition that I not be made to eat any more wooden lollipops (which the girls carried over). I found myself seated on a small chair at a small table. The housekeeping corner has a set of toy sinks across the wall, a refrigerator, a cupboard wherein is kept the food, and shelves. A large (big enough for two 6 year olds to crowd into) baby carriage and a pile of clothes were the other main items in the area. The children immediately began arguing over roles. “You be the mother. I’m the baby.” To reduce the conflict I noted we might have twins. That was acceptable and Michelle, who didn’t seem to mind too much, was constrained to be the mother. She began struggling with a short nightgown– long enough for her– while Miriam and Elizabeth climbed into the baby carriage. Since there were two blankets, this seemed a nicely balanced situation.
For a moment only. The children, still carrying their collection of wooden lollipops, began playing GOO-GOO-GA-GA. This game has three main features: the children say nothing but GOO-GOO-GA-GA; they fight with each other over the blankets; they throw to the floor whatever they can reach. The additional element they explained to me is that the parents get to pick everything up. I refused to play any such parental role. Michelle then acted her part. Going into the cupboard, she took out all the plastic fruit and boxes of cereal and dumped them over the babies — who proceeded to throw them to the floor.
Miriam, pulled out of the baby carriage by Michelle, crawled under the table to maintain possession of the blanket. Enter Meg, the largest child in her class. She too joined GOO-GOO-GA-GA. The noise level and contention increased. When Michelle rid herself of the nightgown there were four girls playing tug-of-war with two blankets amidst unspeakable noise. The one English word I was to hear come up: “share.” Elizabeth declared she would take a bath, hopped on the sink with her end of one blanket, and invited Michelle to join her in the bath. Then Meg and Miriam joined the bath. Four girls in the bath jabbering GOO-GOO-GA-GA and laughing like crazy.
I picked up some of the plastic fruit and walked away juggling. While some of the other children took an interest in juggling (and Maria boasted that her father can juggle 10 eggs at once), the game in the housekeeping corner came to an end and the girls decided to rehearse a play (as described in Vignette 19).
This incident exemplifies a game’s functioning as an excuse to engage in a small repertoire of satisfying actions. It appears to be the case that some peripheral factor (such as having a type-cast Daddy available) may evoke and not at all constrain these shared actions.