Some time ago, Sean became quite excited about the idea of buying Alice something called Duplo. I’d actually never heard of it. When I mentioned it around the place, various friends raved about their love of duplo and I wondered what planet I’d been on that I’d never heard of it.
I think it was a planet populated by a family of three girls and one boy. We didn’t really do lego, or duplo, in our house. I’m sure we had it but as children, the girls in my family played very typically feminine games. I amused some friends recently by telling them about a game my sister Adele and I played for years, which we called Friends. It was long before the TV show.
The game went like this. Adele lived at one end of the house. I lived at the other end. We’d go and visit each other, because that’s what our mother and her friends did. They popped around for a cuppa and a chat. There were usually children around. Our brother Keith, and later our sister Fiona, stood in as our children. When we got Walkie Talkies for Christmas one year, they became our telephones. This was a world before mobile phones.
We’d call and invite each other over for ‘a cuppa and a chat’. We’d talk about the things that bothered us. Keeping on top of the house work, how the children were being naughty, that sort of thing. And then we’d have to go home and do housework before our husbands came home from work. Haven’t little girls always played house like this?
My friends, when I described this recently, laughed and laughed. They grew up in a world where playing with lego, making space ships and creating sci-fi worlds was more the norm. I have to ask my sister but I’m sure we must have played stuff like that. I do recall we played ‘Rainbow Warriors’ at some point although I don’t think we knew what the Rainbow Warrior was. We’d heard about it on the news and obviously liked the sound of it. Sometimes at the pool we used to pretend we were foreigners and spoke to each other in gibberish for ages, hoping that people would think we were foreign.
But yes, a lot of our games were awfully feminine and domestic in nature. It didn’t occur to me to see that as funny until my friends laughed and even then I didn’t feel bad about it. That was the world we grew up in – a small town world where mothers on the whole didn’t work outside the home, where they visited friends at home for social connection and where the concerns of home and hearth were the stuff of day to day conversation.
As grown ups, we still talk like this, but we talk about a million other things as well. And in the 1980s we didn’t imagine a world in which we lived in distant cities and had to talk daily by mobile or email. Life changes, but sort of stays the same too.
Enter Alice and Duplo. Sean was very excited about buying it for her second birthday and we went out a few weeks ago and bought a set for her. Her birthday is still a few days away but we couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait to see how Alice and Sean spent an afternoon building stuff together. My childhood that was devoid of duplo has become clear before now. My nephew Willem told me some time ago that I’m really not very good at building but now that Alice has duplo, I plan to spend more time on it and make up for lost years. I will become a builder!
Here’s Alice with her name spelled out in Duplo. Doesn’t every two year old want that?
She built her first tower and it broke.
Just seconds after this photo, she began to cry. She hadn’t yet learned that it was ok to start over and build something new. If Duplo isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.
I’m really looking forward to discovering this hitherto unknown world. We got her a second set to keep at our house. It’s a farm set that has chickens in it. I can’t wait til she comes over next and we discover that together, although I think I have to fight Uncle Sean to get time and access to that!