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I have a castle in my living room. It's made from two cardboard boxes and multi-colored cardboard bricks . It belongs to Bowser - a fearsome, dragonesque character from the Mario games.
My son put it together one afternoon. He decorated it with Mario trading cards, drew a few decorations on the front, then gathered up all his Mario plushies and set them around his creations. Some are Bowser's minions, out to do harm. Others are heroes on dangerous rescue missions.
I love to listen him play, to hear him make up his stories and do the different character voices. Of course, I'm not supposed to listen - if he sees me, he clams up, politely asks me what I need and then waits patiently until I leave the room.
Only it's my living room. So sometimes that's a bit of a problem. Because the living room is also the main room of the house.
So while I love having my son play pretend, I do occasionally wish his castle had been built elsewhere. The situation reminded me of another one, long ago.
When I was little, I used to love to play Barbies. I would make up grand storylines and set up major scenarios with my cast of motley characters - from Malibu Barbie to Prince Ken to Skipper. I'd do this, though, in my big sister's closet. I had to - she had the coolest closet with lots of space and two different shelf levels. Luckily, even as a teen-ager, my literary-minded sister understood.
"Okay," she told me. "But don't let it get too messy, and don't stay in there forever."
I didn't, of course. I put my Barbies away. And I know that far too soon, Bowser and his evil minions won't interest my son anymore. So for now, the living room is hs fortress. And that's okay.