Eldest Son was given a hand-me-down set of pajamas in a camouflage pattern, with some other military insignia scattered randomly over the cloth. He asked what the pattern was so I explained that armies use it to help them hide. That was two days ago.

Yesterday they got into their pajamas early, and I heard him say to Younger Brother, “Want to play army with me?” I was instantly and momentarily transported back to my own childhood: Playing Army Men (the small drab-green plastic figures) in the sand box with my next youngest sister and the boy next door. But there was also a flavor of a visit from my aunt, my mother’s sister. She’d brought small crepe-paper-wrapped balls, made in China, which were purported to have presents inside. Turned out there was a lot of brown paper stuffing and three tiny, tiny, plastic toys. (She was disappointed in them, but I don’t remember being: As far as I was concerned, what it was was what it was supposed to be.)

But in one or two of the balls, one of those tiny toys was a gun. And my aunt was not approving of that at all. I didn’t know at that time how committed to peace and justice work and to nonviolence she is. (She’d been the the Phillipines in the Peace Corps, but I didn’t know how to understand that.) So she took us outside, and she used the gun to press the shape of tiny peace symbols into the snow, and she wouldn’t let us play with them. It was all kind of mystifying to me; I certainly didn’t think that guns were good things, but these were pretend. I don’t even remember wanting to use them to pretend shoot each other; I was just trying to figure out why we couldn’t have them.

Anyway, my sons go off to play Army, and I overhear that they are using the camouflage to hide from the enemies. A little while passes. Next time I tune in, the game has metomorphosed: They are hiding in the jungle from the people who kill the animals, and they are shooting and killing the people who kill the animals.

That’s a welcome change from the army. “But do you have to kill them?” I ask.

“Yes, I asked them two times and they wouldn’t listen, so…Bam!”

Well ok. What’re you going to do, when you ask them two times not to kill the animals and they wouldn’t listen? “Could you arrest them?” I see the idea percolating, and off they go.

And before dinner, the game shifts again. In its glorious final incarnation, Younger Brother is the policeman who arrests the people who are killing the animals in the jungle, and he drives a camouflage police car. Eldest Son, in his camouflage PJs, is the Animal Control officer who takes care of the animals, and he drives a truck.  The vehicles are entirely in their imagination.

Now isn’t that a wonderful use for camouflage? And I even know how to spell it now, after writing this piece.