Today I’ve been feeling very nostalgic, so I’m offering up a piece of a childhood memory:
It was summer, or at least it felt like summer. The Florida heat was blocked just enough by the enormous trees that had taken root at various spots in my back yard. All the neighborhood kids were taking shelter in the small shady spots, relishing in the slightly-cooler air. The humid air kept our shirts stuck to our bodies, and my hair was at max capacity. Frizzy curls flicked from side to side as I tried to fan myself with my thick ponytail.
We had just finished exploring another area of woods in the neighborhood and deemed it unfit, like the rest, for our clubhouse. Of course, we had no idea how to build a clubhouse, but that was irrelevant. A neighborhood gang of kids needed the neighborhood gang tree-fort, no question about it.
“Did we check the Robertson’s property?”
“Yeah, last week.”
And down the list we would go. As it got closer to dusk, I found energy creeping back into my limbs, and I popped up, brushing the dirt off my legs which were cut up due to the unforgiving Florida underbrush. I paused with my hands on my hips, staring at the woods next to my house. It was the smallest stretch of woods in the neighborhood, but my sister and I had done plenty of exploring and found lots of interesting places.
“Hey, why don’t we try here?” The boys, both with pink noses and blonde hair, protested,
“Nah, we’ll have to look at the next street over.” Morgan jumped up,
“I think it’s worth a try! We don’t have any daylight left anyway.” Savannah gave her support, and the three of us badgered the boys into submission. The only trail was faint–the best a 6 and 9 year old could do– but we had no problem tromping through the brambles in our sneakers. Basketball shorts got snagged on branches and vines as I led them towards the center of the woods. A tree with long branches stood close to the middle, and if you could climb high enough you could sit and watch the sun set over the house tops.
After a bit of pulling, pushing, and scraping knees and hands on the bark, the gang sat perched on the branches, watching the sunlight shine straight through the leaves, illuminating every detail of each vein. A slight breeze picked up, and though the air was still warm, it made the sticky-sweaty part of my neck get goosebumps. It was quiet except for the occasional smack of a hand on a leg or arm as we fought in the never-ending battle against mosquitoes. Staying out as late as we could get away with, the curly-haired boy stated decisively, “Nope. We’ll go by the Allen’s place tomorrow.” With just enough light left to see, I aimed a potent little fist and drove it into his shoulder.
“Ouch! What the heck?”
The group clamored down the tree and raced down the street, taunting and stealing one another’s bikes until the sun was completely gone and our mother’s voices bounced off the black pavement, still warm from the sun’s rays.
We never did build that fort.