Did you have a “secret place” or hideaway when you were a child? Where was it and what made that place special?

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, we lived in a little white house with a white picket fence on Rutland Road. In our big backyard there was a huge old tree, a big sandbox, and an musty old garage whose roof we liked to bravely jump from. I loved to sit under the big old tree in the shade. It seemed like my very own quiet, private world. Then someone gave us a plastic teepee which we set up under the tree, and on hot summer days it was the perfect place to disappear. My brother, Stewart, had a blanket that had a “native” design on it, which we would lay on the grass in the teepee, and in my rich imagination, I would fly away to other times and places and become an Indian princess! I do not know what happened to the teepee, but 45 years later I still have the old blanket; threadbare but rich with memories.

When I tired of the teepee, I’d go over to the sandbox, where Stewart and I had dug a tunnel right under it from one side to the other! It was very exciting to crawl into the tunnel and be hidden away from the world. When I was about 7 or 8 I read Pierre Berton’s “The Secret World of Og” for the first time (I’ve read it several times since — one of my favorite childhood books!), and that tunnel in our backyard became for me, in imagination, the tunnel to secret underground worlds of my own!

Another special hideaway was at the Summerland Experimental Station. We often went there for extended-family picnics, including several of my birthday celebrations, and there at the top of the long sloping lawn and flower gardens, was an old weeping willow tree whose branches hung to the ground; beneath that tree was a secret, quiet place where I never tired of spending time alone. Last summer, 2007, I went there again after many years away, and was delighted to find that my old hideaway is still there, its walls a little thinner in its old age, but still a wonderful secret place. Finally, as a child I loved to read, of course, and perhaps all those hours spent alone exploring the rich worlds of story were my most special “secret places” and childhood hideaways. I especially loved books about the past… pioneer stories, tales that took place in mysterious old English castles and country houses, stories of Ancient Egypt and Greece, and yes, Bible stories too! Curled up in the corner of the couch, or under a tree, or in my teepee, off I would go on grand adventures!

Written: Jun 01, 2008

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