The Masak-Masak game

The world is but a canvas to the imagination” ~ Henry David Thoreau

My dearest E.,

Lately, you’ve been disposed to playing with my kitchen things. Plates, cups, utensils and what not. You often saunter into the kitchen nonchalantly, fiercely pushing away the bead curtains that separate our kitchen from our living and dining area, and you head determinedly straight for the kitchen cabinets. You have a fascination for such things. Because of this, I had bought a set of plastic cups, forks, spoons & knives, bowls and plates from the children’s section of Ikea to keep you occupied and to hopefully nurture your creative and imaginative growth. Little did I know how imaginative you could be!

You surprised me first by arranging those plates and bowls on the floor of our living room. Forks and spoons were strewn all over the kitchen floor. But you chose a long-handled sturdy spatula and made use of a clean Famous Amos heart-shaped cookie tin as your little wok. How adorable that was for your father and I to see! And there you went on, sitting on the floor, “frying” and “cooking” in your little wok with the spatula, taking “ingredients” from the little plates and bowls. And on and on you went, with a fury! And you smiled at me, lifting the spatula to your mouth and took an imaginary bite. And went, “Mmmm…!”

I can’t, for the life of me, think where you’ve learnt to do that. But you’re growing into a wonderful little girl, generous and loving to your parents. You feed us your imaginary food, constantly smiling and “cooking” for us. Your father and I have vowed that we’ll buy you your own little dining table and chair, and a whole new toy cooking set (masak-masak in Malay, which means, literally, cooking) for you. When I was a little girl, my Daddy bought me one of those sets too, and I loved playing with it, cooking up a storm on the kitchen floor when my mother used to prepare dinner. I used uncooked rice, water, cut-out pieces of coloured paper at first: green for vegetables, yellow for chicken, brown for steaks, red for apples. And then later, my Daddy bought me plastic foods like fruits, vegetables, french fries, and burgers!

It’s your latest passion, this masak-masak game, and we enjoy watching you at play. Maybe you’ll be a cook, or a chef someday. Who knows?

You have a vivid imagination, a creative ability to bring out the beauty in all that you do. You distinct reality and the make-believe in your games at this tender age. You are aware of the real truth of our world: the salty air we breathe in, the dust and sweat on your skin, the exhilaration of blood pumping into our hearts as we walk beneath the stars and canopied trees. And that is as real as the fleeting fancies and imagination you allow yourself.

For where are we, when we do not have any imagination to bring out the beauty, justice and joy of our world?