Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Purple Pickle

Does this scenario sound at all familiar?

It’s raining. You’ve been inside with the kids all day. You’ve already allowed them twice their usual quota of TV. You’ve baked cookies. You’ve played Candyland over ten times. You’ve read so many books that your voice is raw and both your index fingers are riddled with paper cuts.

Short of running out of the house, screaming, what next?

The last time this happened to me I thought back to an assignment given our class by my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. D’Angelo, a largish man who also happened to be a blackbelt in karate. The guy once broke a cinder block in two with his bare fist. No fooling.

In any case, one day Mr. D. (as he let us call him) wrote this on the blackboard:

Purple pickle

A Bermuda Onion

A pink ping-pong ball

The assignment was to write a story that included each of the listed details at least once. Being the Watergate era, a friend and I penned a tract about a politician named Richard M. Lindsay who searches the globe looking for the Purple Pickle of Peace, The Bermuda Onion of Crime, and the Pink Ping Pong Ball of Poverty. But I digress.

On a recent rainy day, it occurred to me that I could use the same game to get my own young kids to make up their own stories.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” I said. “We’re going to go in a circle and tell a story. The story has to include a yellow raccoon, a blue carrot, and an astronaut from France.”

I don’t remember all the details, but suffice it to say, the story we came up with – a tale of an astronaut named Jean-Claude who rockets with a yellow raccoon to Pluto in search of a magical blue carrot – was pretty darned funny. At least we thought so at the time. Better yet, when we were finished, my daughter, Cassie, decided to write it all down and draw pictures. One of her first books!

Now it’s one of those things we do when we’ve run out of other things to do.

Thanks Mr. D!

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