A Little Happier: Agatha Christie Shows How the Games of a Child Can Become the Work as the Adult

One thing that always interests me is seeing how the activities and games that we love as children influence our lives as adults.

I often ask people, “What did you do for fun as a child? Because if you loved doing something as a child, you’d probably enjoy doing it as an adult—adapted for the adult context, of course.”

I came across a great example of this principle.

I love memoirs, and one terrific memoir is Agatha Christie’s An Autobiography. I don’t love mysteries, so I’ve only read a few Agatha Christie novels, but I love this memoir. And she offers a great example of how the games of childhood can become the work of adulthood.

In writing about her early days, she describes that she spent a lot of time with her nurse, Nursie. She writes:

“When I had exhausted the delights of ‘playing in the garden’ I returned to the Nursery wherein was Nursie, a fixed point, never changing. Perhaps because she was an old woman and rheumatic, my games were played around and beside, but not wholly with, Nursie. They were all make-believe.”

Agatha Christie describes how she played games with “The Kitttens.” There was Clover, Blackie, and three others. Their mother’s name was Mrs Benson. She would sit at Nursie’s feet, and murmur to herself, playing secret games with the Kittens.

Many years later, she recounts, she and her sister Madge were talking about their favorite detective stories.  After Madge commented that she didn’t think Agatha could ever write such a story, because they were so difficult to do, Agatha Christie became determined to do it.

Then, again later, the First World War, she had a position at a medical dispensary, and she had periods when she wasn’t busy, and she started to craft a detective story.

She was trying to think of characters, her murderer, and his motive, and one day, she spotted a man and two women on a tram. She wrote about how in her imagination,  “I took them all three off the tram with me to work upon—and walked up Barton Road muttering to myself just as in the days of the Kittens.”

This story became her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and introduced her famous Inspector Poirot.

As Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, and Fred Rogers all observed, Play is the work of childhood.

I love seeing the ways that childhood play can turn into adult passions and activities. What we loved as a child, we often love as an adult, just the way Agatha Christie loved to murmur to her Kittens.




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