I visited my parent's house this past Saturday and explored my old closet. This is where they store a lot of my childhood things. It's a walk-in closet so there is plenty of room for all the little bits of my youth that I don't have space for in my apartment. It has a bookshelf of Japanese comics, a tower full of old CDs, a dresser filled with old sketchbooks and yearbooks, my prom dress, and a never finished Viking ship model. What caught my attention during this visit was my handmade three-story (four if you include the attic) dollhouse.
I built this dollhouse with my father when I was around eight years old. It was one of those kits you buy at the hobby shop and that had to be hand-painted, glued, and everything. My father was/is a big hobby guy, so when we finished this house, it had stained wood floors, wall paper, carpet, a mailbox, an attic door, furniture, and individual shingles. I'm surprised he didn't figure out a way to give it electricity.
Anyway, I digress. The dollhouse is pretty amazing. And whenever I look at the dollhouse or any of my childhood toys, I reminisce about the joys that were had when playing with them. And then I wonder, what is different now that I can't play with them anymore? When did I stop playing with toys? Maybe around junior high when I had more friends, took an interest in boys, and watched more TV?
Seriously, I had some crazy imagination back then. I had the most intricate scenarios for my dollhouse family. Crazy stuff would happen. Someone would get lost, a cousin was mysteriously murdered, a dark plague was coming to wipe out the world... all sorts of things.
Where did that ability go? It's something I ponder about sometimes. I remember once when I was visiting my parents' house, I took out the dollhouse and attempted to play. I tried to start a story with the toys, but as soon as I started, I realized that it wasn't working. I felt like a silly grown up with some serious issues.
I brought up this question to a friend of mine recently: When does your ability to play go away and why? It's not because you lose imagination. Lord knows I still have plenty. She suggested that maybe when we get older we start to channel that ability into our minds and it turns into day dreaming.
I'm sure there's a lot of research about this. I feel like making up stories was a lot easier as a kid. When I'm trying to write stories for comics these days, I wish I was eight again. I had so many ideas back then... maybe not good ideas, but still!
Have anyone else ever thought about this?
÷ ÷ ÷
Emi Lenox has dreamed of becoming a cartoonist since she was a little girl reading the manga her Japanese mother provided. She spent her early 20s getting inspiration from the works of Jeff Smith, Adrian Tomine, and Craig Thompson, doodling in her sketchbook, and interning in Portland's comics community. With the release of EmiTown, her first published work, it's finally her turn.
Books mentioned in this post
Emi Lenox is the author of EmiTown