Academic journal article American Journal of Play

In Tune with Play and Therapy: An Interview with Phyllis Booth

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

In Tune with Play and Therapy: An Interview with Phyllis Booth

Article excerpt

American Journal of Play: Tell us about some of your most meaningful childhood play experiences.

Phyllis Booth: My father loved to play games. He would lie on his back and put me on his knees and roar out "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready"-[pause]-"and four to go!" He would drop his knees and I would fall onto his arms for a big hug. "More, more," I would shout. Back on his knees I crawled, and we would do it over and over again. My mother made even the daily task of making the beds fun. I would run ahead of her and crawl under the rumpled blankets. She would come in and playfully pat the bed saying, "There's a lump in the bed. What can it be? " Then she would find my hair and say, "It must be a mop!" Pulling back the blanket, she would peek at me and say, "Oh, no, it's a little girl! It's my Phyllis!" Then we would carefully straighten the bed and finish our task. My mother would ofien come to wake me up in the morning singing, "Good morning, Merry Sunshine, What makes you wake so soon? You shine away the little stars and smile away the moon."

AJP: Yours was a playful family?

Booth: We spent a lot of time playing music together in our family. My sister, two years older than I, played the piano. I played the violin. Even when we were quite young, we played duets at every opportunity. My brother, five years younger than I, played the trombone, and my other sister, thirteen years younger, also played the violin. Later my mother sang with a ladies trio, and my sister accompanied her. My father liked to entertain us singing jokey songs such as "A Preacher Went Out a Hunting." As I think about these memories, I realize that the rhythmic chants, the singing, the loving touch, the pure joy of being together filled my life with love and laughter-a very good start for me to make play the center of my life.

AJP: Are there other ways that your family experiences pointed the way forward for you?

Booth: While both my parents could be playful and funny, they also provided a clear sense of order and safety. We lived a very well-ordered life: Monday was wash day. Tuesday, ironing. Wednesday, mending. And church on Sunday. Our motto? "Everybody happy, well so am I." I grew up with a clear sense that the world was a safe, understandable, and good place. As I have had my own experiences working with children and raising my own children, the pattern of parenting that I experienced has had a powerful infiuence on what I do and who I am.

AJP: Has play informed your adult sensibilities?

Booth: My childhood experience with play was certainly a big factor in my choice of play as a therapeutic model for children. But I think the whole model of parenting that I experienced prepared me for a lifetime of working with children. I was five when my brother was born and thirteen when my little sister was born, so I had ample opportunity to watch how my mother cared for children. She loved to hold and cuddle all of us. I remember how warm her welcome was when we returned from school. On cold rainy days, she had hot cocoa ready, and we played games on the living room fioor. She was also very much attuned to how we were feeling. I remember more than once feeling grumpy and out of sorts (there were lots of childhood illnesses in those days, and we had our share). She touched my forehead and said, "Oh, you have a fever." She then tucked me into the nice cool sheets, and immediately I relaxed. Everything would be all right now. I was in good hands.

AJP: How did you start working with children?

Booth: I have had a very long and rewarding career, but it might have turned out difierently. I had adored my junior high school orchestra director and wanted to be just like him when I grew up, so I majored in music in college. But during 1944 and 1945, I spent my summer vacations working in a Wartime Day Nursery caring for children whose mothers worked in war industries. I remember one day when all the children were napping and I had settled down to paint a wooden orange crate to be used as shelves for toys. …

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