I was reminiscing with a friend this week about those sweet summers of our youth, and the reckless abandon with which we embraced those treasured days. It was a different time and place, when kids could roam freely without the constant supervision of adults. We were the masters of our make-believe domains.
When I rewind the memories of those summers, almost all of the best times had to do with forts — tree forts, hay forts and even a ramshackle log fort my oldest brother and I built when we were probably 7 and 5.
It’s curious to me how comforting those forts were. My middle brother and I shaped an entire make-believe “house” out of perfect old box-elder tree at the edge of our grove. We spent hours at a crack in that tree, and I wonder what we talked about. All I really remember is that it was our special place for just the two of us. In fact, we had an escape route planned and even practiced evacuating the tree in the event our oldest brother would sneak up on us for a surprise “attack.” And he did terrorize us from time to time.
The hay forts we built upstairs in our century-old barn were architectural wonders. We would shape the bales into mazes of tunnels that led to a common fort area where we could convene and spend time. And again, I don’t remember what we talked about or what games we might have played in the confines of those hay forts, but what remains is the feeling of togetherness in our private space. It was our domain, and no one else’s.
The time my oldest brother and I built that log hut in the sheep pasture, we could have gotten into serious trouble. It was only big enough for the two of us to lie down inside, and I don’t know how we got the roof to stay on, but my brother was somewhat of an engineering whiz even as a youngster. This pasture contained the ornery ram that one time had quite literally bucked me over the fence.
As we lay in our humble abode, the sheep congregated around us. We didn’t dare get out, so we stayed put for a very, very long time until our mother eventually came looking for us at suppertime and gave us a scolding.
I always sought out quiet spots as a kid. Somehow I needed these get-aways to contemplate life, or think big thoughts. No, it probably wasn’t anything that deep. I just enjoyed peace and quiet; I always have. One time I holed up in my grandfather’s 1953 Ford that was tucked away in a shed on the farm. I distinctly remember just sitting there and enjoying the solitude. When my mother eventually found me she was frantic, and in hindsight I can certainly understand why.
If left to my own devices, perhaps I could have become the next Henry David Thoreau, the famous transcendentalist who so eloquently wrote about simple living in one’s natural surroundings.
By the time I was 10, though, my little brother had been born and most of my free time was taken up with babysitting and running the household while my mother was out in the fields working alongside my dad. Then I got very involved in 4-H and suddenly my leisurely summers came to an end.
I still miss those idyllic hours spent doing nothing. At any point in my life since then it’s been difficult, if not impossible to recreate that kind of stolen time. Life gets busy.
The best I can do these days is find a little time to myself on a walk. Sometimes I’ll just sit on the couch after work — no iPad, TV, radio, cellphone or other worldly distraction — and just think about whatever comes to mind. Those moments are glorious.
Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.