Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Idylls of childhood

I had a Beaver Cleaver existence growing up. A friend coined that expression when I told him about my childhood, and I think he was right.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 60s. My mother worked outside the home from 9 to 4, so she could be there when we left for school and came home. I rode my bike to the swimming pool every day in the summer, I had a treehouse in the back yard, and I spent long, lazy summer days in my Special Place: a tree overhanging a creek that ran through town.

There was a secret spot where kids gathered, not far from our house. It was in 'the woods' -- trees that lined the creek, which led eventually to the river. There was a train trestle over the creek, and we would gather at the trestle, playing in the stream, climbing trees, scurrying along the trestle to the other side. It was about 3 stories up in the air, and scary as hell but neat, too, to see the water under your feet.

I would climb up a tree that had a branch overhanging the stream and balance there, lying on the branch and looking up through the leaves. Sky above, water below, and green all around me. It was cool on the hottest days and smelled of wet rocks, sand, and earth. Heaven.

I suspect I hatched a few plots while I was lying there, but mostly I think I was absorbing Happy to be pulled out at later times, when I needed it. All I have to do now is envision that spot and I can conjure up a setting for a book: a small town with eccentric characters, children riding their bikes in the summertime, and crisp autumn days with bright red leaves.

The good things always stay with us.

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