I experienced much of life at 10 Birch Drive as one half of a sister whole. Both of my parents are important influences, but in those days, they played hazy supporting roles. They were the lawmakers and peace brokers of our little kingdom, but Megan and I were its central inhabitants. This is not to say we were best friends – far from it. We fought frequently and passionately, but in our downtime (you know, when we weren’t crunching numbers or pushing papers), we lived rich lives of play, in which we were both creators and interpreters.
In the backyard overlooking a grove of pine and birch trees, there was a small, steep, rocky hill. We referred to it as THE CLIFF. Whenever we craved adventure, we’d inform my mother that we were headed out to climb THE CLIFF. We spent countless hours enacting tumultuous and treacherous climbs, always barely surviving the rigorous scrambles up the rocky ledges. Falls from THE CLIFF were met with complicated strategies to repair broken limbs and bloody gashes. We often became so overwhelmed by our strenuous hikes we’d have to revive each other with smelling salts (I was on a pretty intense Anne of Green Gables kick). Harrowing bouts of amnesia were not unheard of.
We also spent time on THE CLIFF doing important geological research, collecting bits of mica, speckled pebbles of gray and white granite, and blush pink nubs of quartz. Once we found an adequate sampling of specimens we’d take them back to our lab, which was located on a slippery-soft bed of sunshiney pine needles in the front yard. Painstakingly, we’d use our old paintbrushes to brush away flecks of debris from the rocks, and chip away at others with little hammers. We always grabbed a few round, dusty rocks in hopes that we’d crack them open to discover a sparkling geode. Geodes were very hot amongst children of a certain disposition in 1989.
My brother’s birth did little to interrupt our sorority of two. If anything, he simply provided useful fodder for our games. We became more invested in playing house since we were able to substitute a live baby for our doll babies. Mostly though, Dan was relegated to a supporting role alongside our parents.
We had two dollhouses in which resided multigenerational families of badgers, rabbits, and several species of bear. They used to be called Sylvanians. Their modern counterparts are the Calico Critters. Since one of the dollhouses was considerably smaller than the other, we renovated it into the General Store (which was owned and operated by a gray gentleman squirrel named Mr. Squirrel). The General Store was also a useful place to collect gossip and discuss the townspeople’s comings and goings.
The larger residence housed the rest of the creatures on a rotating basis. Sometimes the tan bear family were forced to live off the land because there was a lack of beds at the big house, and sometimes the white rabbit family decided to go on safari in order to make room for the dark brown bear family. The town was privy to many a drama. Romantic affairs largely occupied the hearts and minds of the small animals, and countless births and weddings occurred in the village.
But alas, it was not all rainbows and happy endings. Tragically, the small town was haunted with a miserable string of devastating meteorological catastrophes. Hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, hailstorms – they occurred biweekly at least. In a frenzy of inclement weather, both the General Store and the Big House would be shaken into oblivion, the carefully placed armchair sliding into the kitchen, the lamps falling down the stairs, the occupants running for cover. The catharsis of reunions between lost family members always made for a satisfying ending to a weather event, and as soon as we reconstructed the town (through a painstaking process of community building and family therapy), we’d look forward to the next natural disaster with even more bloodthirsty anticipation than before.
Charlie and Wren – I wish you drama, contusions, spirited brawls, plenty of nautral disasters, and rainbow colored imagination for as long as you both may play.