The Beatles’ song lyrics that always grab me go like this:
There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain.
All these places had their moments, with lovers and friends, I can still recall
Some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all.
As I sort and pack and sort some more (during this difficult week of bad news) in preparation for the move back to Colorado, I am finding boxes of photos and mementoes long forgotten of a simpler time. Look, here is Thunder, my mean little pony, appropriately named, jet black in temperament as well as his horsehair. That pony threw me over his head every chance he got. I grew to hate the sight of him, but eventually we arrived at some level of tolerance for eachother. Still, I always believed he was a killer at heart.
I remember the tallest pine tree just off our flagstone terrace, a tree that overlooked the backyard hill of our big country house on Munger Road. In the summer the tree dripped with sap, and I climbed it barefoot. My feet were sticky until school started in the fall when I had to wear shoes again. Nearly every evening I would climb to the very top, a considerable height for a skinny young girl. My parents sat just below having cocktails as the sun went down. From my perch at the top of my world I could hear their conversations to perfection, no one aware I was there. I learned a lot about life and I owe it all to that tree.
Oh the hayloft in the barn. Early morning sun filtering through the cracks between the wall boards revealing the random dance of dust motes in the air. Watching my kittens run to me from across the hay strewn floor as I brought their daily saucer of milk, weaning them from their mama. That hayloft was a retreat from the world for me. I would spend hours there with the horses, the kittens and the roosters crowing in the chicken coop nearby. It was in that barn that I got my first kiss when a boy from my 6th grade class walked miles to visit me, sweetly and respectfully becoming my first boyfriend.
The attic under the high pitched roof of the main house, where we needed help to open the trap door at the top of the stairway, our entrance to another world. As the rain pounded and roared on the roof just above our heads, hours went by as we played “pretend” wearing props such as wide-brimmed hats with feathers on them and black capes and using old furniture for the walls of our forts.
Of course my playhouse out in the horse pasture, nestled under some trees, far enough from the house to feel isolated and adventurous, close enough to run home if a thunderstorm came….the neighbor’s cows often escaped their pasture, wandering onto our property through the same hole in the fence that never managed to stay secure. When the cows surrounded our playhouse we looked out the windows and pretended they were horses being ridden by Indian warriors, and we, the cowboys, staged an entire afternoon of wild west show-downs wearing the cowboy outfits and six-shooters in holsters that Nana and Grandpa had given us for Christmas. We won when the cows finally wandered away and the ranch house was secured.
Mr. Kress, our beloved caretaker and man of few words, in the winter months would knock twice at the back kitchen door every evening about 5:30, greet us, then come in to tromp down the basement stairs and shovel enough coal in the furnace to last until about 7am the next morning when he would come back and do it again. Many nights he was covered in snow accumulated in the walk from his house down the hill to our back door. In the summer months he spent his evenings mowing grass – acres of grass – sometimes until the sun was down. As soon as the front yard was done it was time to do the backyard again. Mr. Kress is a character lovingly remembered; when I was able I followed him everywhere, watching him and occasionally exchanging a few sentences.
These are just a few of the favorite places of my childhood – the ones that shaped me, enhanced my imagination, fueled my creativity and made me the independent tomboy I was and still am. The tomboy grew up to be an adventurous young woman who decided to go west to college instead of staying in Ohio as my parents strongly wished. In that one decision, which was hard-fought and finally won through downright pleading as well as presenting relevant facts and information, my life changed forever. I knew instinctively that I needed the wide open spaces of the west. When I landed in Colorado to attend CU in Boulder, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Next to the mountains and a mile high – with vistas worth painting at every glance.
Still my favorite places from childhood fill my thoughts in the wee hours when I can’t sleep. The common thread is the peace, comfort and freedom these humble but rare places brought to me then, and continue to bring now in their remembering. From all the memories that fall away over the years, the ones we keep are the ones we need the most. And in the words of Jeff Probst of Survivor fame, “The adventure you are ready for is the one you get.” And I am ready to go back to Colorado for the next chapter. It feels like home to me.