Standing before a clump of bushes I pulled my shirt out and let the red berries I was gathering collect in the little well that was made. I took my time. Pinching the berries off the branches with my tiny thumb and forefinger and carefully pulling off all the stems and leaves.
When I’d gathered enough to fill my outstretched t-shirt I would look down to the end of the block to make sure the coast was clear from my house to the stop sign at the end of the street. If I saw anyone milling about I would have to wait. I didn’t want the spoiled girl down the street, the always dirty kids from across the way or my older brother and his friend playing with their action figures to see me. I held my breath for long stretches as I waited for the moment when no one was watching. When it finally came the clomping of my boots across first the sidewalk and then lawn seemed to echo in my ears.
Unnoticed I crawled on my knees across the sun warmed dirt and rocks under a branch and wriggled into a hole in the giant shrubs in my front yard. Hidden there in the cool shade was my wonderland. My secret home. My fortress of little girl solitude where I passed the long summer days reading, playing with my dolls and stirring up brews and magic potions.
With a bowl and spoon I kept there for just such occasions I sat grinding red berries to make a paste for my fairy friends. I listened with one ear to the pops and cracks of the red orbs as they were crushed beneath the pressure of my little 6 year old hands. With the others I listened for trespassers, kitties and magical folk…
Remembering all this, I can’t help but think that childhood meant something different when I was a kid.