Forward Into the Past by Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of A Petal in the Wind and the newly released A Petal in the Wind II: Lala Hafstein.
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She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at
 Amazon.

When I was a kid, I loved imaginary games, where you established a world and then went there to play. Until kindergarten, many of the other kids in the neighborhood would join in, but by second grade, they’d all abandoned make-believe for Milton Bradley, preferring the organized play of board games to pretending, which they viewed as childish.

Board games like Monopoly and Life held no interest for me. The object was to win, and while skill played some part, winning depended on luck, literally a toss of the dice. Even without knowing what would happen, you knew the limits of what could, and it always ended the same way, with only the name of the winner changing. But even worse, to play you had to follow a precise set of rules, and I hated to follow rules when I played. With make-believe, you set up a situation, give yourself, your playmates, and your surroundings roles, and then see what happens. Two chairs and a blanket becomes a fort, or cave. A bed serves as a life raft as you flee a sinking ship, or the deserted island where you land. The network of cellars that interconnects apartment buildings on a city block are the tunnels and alleyways where the good guys and bad guys dart about and hide out, planning their strategies for battle. The goal wasn’t to win, but to experience an adventure. To have fun.

I sought out younger companions to continue my penchant for imaginary play, but eventually they, too, stopped. But I never did.

When you don’t have playmates to share in the experience, you create the games in your mind, including all the characters, the setting, the situations, the problems. You play it at night in bed, before you fall asleep. You daydream it when there’s nothing better to do. Maybe you write it in a notebook.

When I became a teen, many of my friends had crushes on some singer or actor. I was rather naïve, but I saw an opportunity, picked a harmless teen heartthrob and joined in the fun. A few of us would make up fantasies of what it would be like to be with these men, or at least, who we imagined them to be. They were really empty shells, with the physical presence we saw on album covers or on television, which we filled with all the qualities we imagined they would have. All the qualities that would appeal to a shielded thirteen-year-old, that is. But at a certain level they, and the fantasy lives we shared with them, became real to us.

Yes, I did play with board games, coloring books, paper dolls and real dolls. Outside we’d jump rope, play hopscotch, tag, or handball with my friends. It was fun and I enjoyed it, yet I always elevated make-believe to the highest level of play, and in a sense, I still do.

Is it any wonder I became a storyteller?

12 thoughts on “Forward Into the Past by Miko Johnston”

  1. This post resonated with me, Miko, because I was, and continue to be, much the same way. And I bet a lot of writers share this trait, embracing the lure of make-believe, where there truly are no limits to “what could be”–no limits but the reach of our imaginations.

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  2. Have you noticed that the cardboard box the gifts came in often fascinated little children far more than the actual gifts. I saw my friends toddlers spend hours playing with those cardboard boxes – and I had the same thought, Jacqui….

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  3. I come from a different generation, and when I was a kid we played “Army”, “Cowboys and Indians” and “Cops and Robbers”. We rode bikes and made mud pies. The only time we played board games was when the weather was bad. Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I just read this – sorry, I was out of town soon after it was posted. What a delightful way to picture your childhood. I always played cowboys and “indians” will fellow trailer park friends, plus hide 'n seek. Being an only child (half siblings had moved out by the time I was 5) I also played imaginary games with several feathered pets (A beloved parakeet who would sit on my shoulder, walk down my arm and peck food from my dinner plate, and whom I could call to my bed from her cage in the mornings – and a duck named Kris Kringle with whom I would venture into the wilds of… Africa (huh!) on my hands and knees).
    Imagination is a wonderful gift from God, give more to some than others. So thankful we got the gift.

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  5. I just read this – sorry, I was out of town soon after it was posted. What a delightful way to picture your childhood. I always played cowboys and “indians” will fellow trailer park friends, plus hide 'n seek. Being an only child (half siblings had moved out by the time I was 5) I also played imaginary games with several feathered pets (A beloved parakeet who would sit on my shoulder, walk down my arm and peck food from my dinner plate, and whom I could call to my bed from her cage in the mornings – and a duck named Kris Kringle with whom I would venture into the wilds of… Africa (huh!) on my hands and knees).
    Imagination is a wonderful gift from God, give more to some than others. So thankful we got the gift.

    Like

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