How to Play the Game “Orphan”

I am the youngest of four children.  A “surprise” if you ask my parents, a “mistake” if you ask my siblings, and a “party crasher” if you ask me.  Being seven years younger than my closest sibling, much of my childhood was spent watching movies, reading mystery books, and writing fantastical short stories to be later performed as a one woman puppet show in my room.

Seeing as I had only myself for entertainment, my imagination ran wild with adventure and tales of great woe.  Seeing as my parents were the age of my classmates’ grandparents, I was convinced they would be dead before I graduated eighth grade.  I thought, I’d better prepare myself for how to live alone.  Thus began the many escapades of Jess, lone street rat and orphan girl, hiding out by day in her makeshift cave and creeping by night stealing fruit snacks from the pantry cupboards.  She was not to be toyed with!

The stairwell in our house had a banister at the top with a few bars running horizontally for looks and structural support.  The space between the stairs and the first bar became the secret crevice to enter my hideaway and had to be crawled through on one’s stomach.  Once safely in my room, a string or jump rope was tied from the dresser handle across the room to the plant stand which doubled as a storage unit for my mass quantity of Cabbage Patch Dolls (Annette, Lanny, Paula, Patti, Heather, Tay, Humphrey, Barney, Keri Ann, Sara, Sloane, Chrissy, Pat, Camilla and Suzette).  After the string was tied, blankets were thrown over the line creating a secret canvas covered hideout or puppet show theater depending on your mood.  Hidden behind these draperies the cries from the streets of “Riffraff!” and “Scoundrel!” could not harm me.

The challenge while playing orphan was to go as long as possible being unseen.  So, to sneak food, one had to crawl through the secret crevice over the stairwell, descend the steps, slide down the frame of the door, quickly crawl under the dining room table and wait until opportunity came.  Then, you crab walked into the kitchen, silently opened the pantry door, pulled out a fruit roll-up or box of croutons, and crab walked back under the table to delight in your stolen afternoon snack.

Another challenge in the game of orphan could only be played when left alone in the house for short periods of time.  The game was called “don’t touch the carpet” and it counted how many times you could get around the living room using only the furniture before you slipped or fell onto the carpet.  Here’s how an expert at this game does it.

  1. Begin on the couch.
  2. Bounce across its cushions.
  3. Step onto the end table, avoid coasters and magazine piles.
  4. Jump onto the loveseat.
  5. Repeat step 2.
  6. Stretch legs to the rocking chair and go!
  7. Steady yourself, or pretend to surf for awhile.
  8. Stretch onto the smaller end table.
  9. Move to the chair in the corner.
  10. *Note:  The final task is extremely difficult if playing in sock feet, proceed with caution.  Step 10.  Crawl onto the TV, and cling for dear life on the frame around the screen, when a good distance jump is there, jump back to the couch.  Repeat steps 1-10.

One thing I learned while playing orphan is that you get lonely.  You really need a sidekick.  Soon I had two, a cat named Carmel and a dog named Tipper.  Make sure your sidekick is someone you can trust with secrets, such as your hideaway whereabouts.  Sometimes when you’re an orphan, a secret language must be developed so you can leave written messages to your pals without an invader knowing what it means.  These can then be conveniently pinned to your canvas with a clothespin.

So if you’re thinking about playing the game Orphan, here’s a list of supplies you may want to include.

  1. blankets to build your hideaway/take a nap
  2. stuffed animals/dolls for trusty sidekicks
  3. junk food for the road, the days are long are arduous as an orphan
  4. paper and pens/markers because orphans are extremely intelligent and creative
  5. a tape recorder and microphone because orphans are known to burst into song when they’re safely hidden in their getaway home

What sort of games did you play as a child?  Who would you take as your sidekick?

11 responses

  1. Sounds like you and I would have been fast friends as kids. I, too, loved playing on my own even though I had a brother and sister. I would lay a small blanket on the living room rug and pretend it was an island and that the surrounding carpeting was the sea. I’d mix “stew” in beach buckets and eat it out of jumbo clam shells I had collected at the beach during the summer. When I was tired of the desert island game, I’d write clues on tiny strips of paper, roll them tight and hide them in the stone wall in our backyard and then pretend I was Nancy Drew trying to solve a crime. I was never bored as a kid. I think I’m going to try to make my way around the house without touching the wood floors before I go to bed tonight. 😉

    1. I advise to use those socks with grippers on the bottom for wood floors.

  2. Ha! My eldest daughter plays at being orphan. We have a three storey house and although Eldest Weasel has her own room up top, she has colonised the guest room in the basement for her flute practice/secret reading/movie watching when she’s stolen my netbook etc etc. Because it’s a big, open room, she’s walled off one corner with spare furniture, and strung blankets across to create her den, which she has lined with a spare duvet and pillows. It actually looks really cozy. She’d like to be an orphan, because at twelve, both her parents and the two younger weasels are a real drag….

    1. I completely approve of her fort building skills. When I can sign a contract with her for new digs?

  3. I am starting to realize that my childhood was quite normal after all.

    1. See, I’m providing readers everywhere with FREE reality checks through childhood memoirs!

  4. My brother and I played the “don’t touch the carpet” game all the time growing up. We pretended the carpet was hot lava and we had to get around or over it any way possible. Must be one of those universal kid’s games.

    1. I’m jealous you had a partner in crime, but Carmel was the truest of stuffed animals friends, with matted fur to prove it!

  5. This is a wonderful post, Jess. And I think I’m starting to understand the cartoon character sightings a little more.

    My father worked as a salesman in the world of retail grocery stores. He would frequently bring home large cardboard floor displays that my younger brother and I would turn into some kind of computer. We’d fold it up with all of the correct tabs in their respective slots, decorate the outside with crayons, and cut a hole large enough for a slip of paper to pass through. Then one of us would get inside to act as the brain of the computer. The one on the outside would write down questions for the computer to answer and slip them through the hole. I’d give anything to see those questions and answers now.

    1. I would totally play this game with you! Computer/fridge box sounds amazing!

  6. […] is why I played alone.  And why my favorite game was called Orphan.  And it’s another example of why I’m convinced I have multiple lives.  But the truth […]

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