Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Under the ferns.

When I close my eyes really tight, I can travel back in time to my childhood, and be in the place that I could say anything, do anything and be anything.

Under the ferns across the street.

Growing up, our house was only full at bedtime. During the day everyone was scattered. Mom was off working one of her many jobs, and Dad was off pounding nails and sawing boards all day, to provide. My older sister would be listening to her Walkman in her room, or out running the roads. The baby would be waddling around under someone’s feet, chewing on her curls. Bean would be singing or dancing and twirling around with her friends in the backyard.

And me? Well, I would be gallivanting around the neighborhood with my partner in crime; looking for our next great adventure. The adventures were endless and effortless. There were hours spent in tree forts and shipwrecked hideaways. Baseball games, swimming and rock skipping competitions. Mud cakes and Pussy willow bouquets. Beach glass collections and desks built into the side of a rocky shoreline. British Bulldog and cheer-leading for the parking lot hockey games. Crab chasing, periwinkle smashing and seaweed busting. And lost rubber boots, sunken down deep down in the muddy cove.

Or, on a lonely day, I could be under the ferns across the street.

I would crawl over the bank, across the street from my house, and pretend I was someone else.
I was a super spy agent waiting and watching for something suspicious to happen.
I was an army soldier slithering my way through the battlefield hoping not to get hit by a stray bullet.
I was a great jungle explorer hoping to spot a rare species to take home and take care of.
I was a diver in a sea of bright green seaweed, trying to avoid a lurking predator.

But sometimes, I was just a little girl hiding from everyone.

Under the ferns, I didn’t have to be nice to anyone. I didn’t have to take turns or share anything. I could play by my rules under the ferns. I could be pretty and lovely and sweet, without anyone seeing. I didn’t have to be tough, and rough, and the middle-child. It was my spot; the place for me to be whoever I wanted to be.

I remember spending hours laying there on the cool, muddy ground. To me, it smelled like freedom. I would look up through the ferns to the blue sky until it matched the same shade as my freshest klutzy bruise; purple-grey. 

Then, like clock-work,  I would hear my mothers voice calling out “Kaaaaaaate…time to come innnnnn.” The sound of her voice would pull me out of whatever world I was in, and bring me back home. She never realized how close I was to her, but she knew that regardless of where I was, I would hear her and eventually come running.  

But sometimes, when I was feeling sneaky and brave, I would crawl further down into a neighbors yard and pretend I was coming from somewhere else. I didn’t want her to know that I was just across the street, within a rocks-throw from her hollering spot on the deck. I never wanted her or anyone to know where I had been all that time. It was my spot, under the ferns. 

It was where I could be whoever I wanted to be. At that time, I had no idea who that was, and some days I fear that I still don't.

So now, more than twenty years later, when I go back home to visit my father in my childhood home, I often glance across the street and wonder how ridiculous it would look if I ran over and jumped in there for a while.

Would the ferns remember me? Who would I be? Would the mud still feel cool and smell of freedom? Would I hear my mothers voice calling for me to come back home? Would I see my girl? Would she still be hiding in there somewhere waiting for me? Would she make room for me? Has she missed me?

I’ve missed her.

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