My cousins and I often reminisce about our childhood games, and we always come to the conclusion that, even with all the big-screen TVs and electronic gadgetry of today, children don’t play the way we once did.
We created our adventures out of our imaginations, and we lived them. We didn’t simply observe.
On Saturday afternoons, the local movie theaters usually featured a western or jungle movie. Jungle movies were our favorites. How we admired “Nioka the Jungle Girl” and her helpers. We got a lot of material for our games of make-believe.
After seeing an especially hair-raising jungle episode, we were inspired to make that our adventure for what remained of the long summer afternoon.
One of our older cousins had handed down some scarves, shawls and costume jewelry. They would transform us into what we thought were genuine, beautiful jungle maidens.
As soon as we got to Grandma’s house, where I lived with my parents, we donned our finery and the game began.
While the grown-ups visited on the front porch, we gracefully floated about, dodging poison arrows and large serpents, nimbly avoiding crocodiles and many other jungle dangers.
Grandma’s house faded away; we were in the deepest Africa.
We usually didn’t play in Grandma’s room, but one piece of furniture was so imposing and tempting that we had to include it in our game. It was a very large serpentine-front dresser. My chin barely came to the top of it.
“There’s the jungle temple,” said my cousin, “where we jungle maidens worship.”
She began to chant and sway and bow, and my other cousin and I followed suit.
Into the jungle scene burst an indignant little lady — our 70-something Grandma. “Bon Dieu!,” she shouted. “What are you doing? Stop this. It’s sacrilegious!”
The jungle maidens scattered to the outdoors where my cousins’ brothers were playing.
“We’re playing like we’re in the jungle,” said one of their sisters. “Want to say what we do next?”
Actually, Grandma had taken the starch out of us and we needed fresh inspiration.
The youngest brother had an idea.
“Let’s make like we caught a gorilla and fried him for our supper,” he said.
His ideas usually involved eating. For the rest of that afternoon of long ago, as the shadows lengthened into dusk and the moon rose, the jungle maidens and the noble helpers chased gorillas, caught one and sat down to eat around our imaginary campfire. The jungle maidens, as it turned out, were also expert cooks.
“Pass me a gorilla drumstick,” my cousin said.
No, children today don’t have adventures like that anymore. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten fried gorilla by moonlight.
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