I was a solitary little girl, who loved to nestle in the space between the Nandina bushes and the white picket fence in our backyard; bare toes digging into the loose North Texas black soil; bare arms serving as racetracks for doodlebugs in exploration. My dog, Bob, was my constant companion. He was middle-sized, black and loyal and I liked having his company out in those bushes. He was as happy out there as I was; often giving my dusty feet a quick lick with his pink tongue before settling down for a nap while I played.
I was a little girl who loved to climb trees, particularly the pecan tree right behind our house. I liked to pretend that the different limbs were different rooms in a house: one the living room, another the kitchen, another the bedroom. I would climb from limb to limb and pretend that I had friends visiting, usually my two imaginary friends: Tommy Wizzums and Heidi, and we would talk and eat and play games with each other while the hot Texas sun filtered through the green leaves. I can’t remember if these conversations were out loud, but I believe they surely were. I suppose my family could hear me out there chatting away, as if I had a whole slew of buddies up there with me. I suppose I did.
I was a little girl who favored the backs of closets and other small spaces. I loved my mother’s closet, where I could sit among my mother’s clothes and smell the scent of her Chanel Number Five that lingered on her dresses. I like sitting in the semi-darkness with the door slightly cracked, where I could listen to the distant whir of the vacuum cleaner as our housekeeper, Lorene, worked nearby. I felt safe and secure in those small spaces. Free from the torment of my older brothers or the demands of my little one. I had my own little trouble-free space – a neutral zone – where I could take a break from growing up with five other siblings, four of whom still lived at home.
I was a little girl who would hole up in the living room when everyone else was upstairs watching television so that I could listen to favorite records on the turntable of the cabinet stereo. “Oh, Donna” by Richie Vallens, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLQQatWYY7M,
“Get a Job” by The Silhouettes, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbGthv-dJp4, and “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkRYuMqw-B0.
These were usually short sessions because one of my brothers would burst into the room and decide it was time to wrestle with me or chase me. But I remember enjoying those times, singing along with the music and having that big room all to myself.
I think of my childhood with these solitary moments because I was one of six kids and my privacy was something that I treasured. I loved my brothers who were still all home – my sister was already off to college when I was a 7 or 8 – but four brothers and all their friends did not make for a quiet house. I had to find refuge from so many people and those times were some of my favorites growing up.
I still love my quiet spaces. Not behind shrubs, up in trees, or in closets, but I do still listen to music and sing along. Also, I have the orange grove, which is a singular spot to go when in need of pure solitude. I love living among those trees and looking up at the stars on a clear night. I also always have my dogs up there with me, and they nestle at my feet just like Bob did when I was a kid.
I guess parts of us never grow up. I would say that is a good thing.