Repost: Childhood Refuges

Today has been a day of sleeping.  This is after several long days of work, one of which was 11 1/2 hours long with students.  I found this piece that I posted several years ago and decided it reflected accurately my need today for the refuge of a quiet room and several naps.  Refuges are not limited to childhood, after all.

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 perfume 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, “Get a Job” by The Silhouettes and “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. 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.

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