Friday, May 29, 2009

Willow Oak

This is a little essay I wrote for my first college English class... I was digging around on my hard-drive and found it, and thought it would be appropriate to post here. Brings back fun memories! :)


Across the street from my childhood home on Willow Oak, there was an empty lot. Except for the very center, trees grew thickly, obscuring our view of the street and effectively giving us a place all our own, a stage on which we acted out various dramas. The cast of players was usually the same, consisting of Alison, Katherine, Taylor, and myself. Alison was the oldest. Even then, she was striking: tall, blonde, and bronze. Katherine lived down the street. Besides being the same age, we were as different as possible; still, we were best friends. Taylor, my brother, was the youngest. At first, he joined us because my mother made us let him play; we often had to dictate his roles to him. Later, though, he made for himself his own niche in our game. The lot took on for us many different personalities, and with it, we changed as well.

When we played house, the hollow was our home. A fallen tree was transformed into our couch; a stump served as our table; the holes in the trees made perfect cabinets. Alison always played the mother; as the oldest and the tallest, it was logical. Katherine and I were the twins; since we were the same age, it just made sense. Taylor was usually the baby brother. When he got older and knew the difference, though, he insisted on being the father; being the baby was below him. Our dramas were numerous and extremely varied. On hot days when it was time for us to “eat,” Alison would run back to her house and bring us Big Red popsicles. Other times, conversing politely, we would sit Indian-style around our stump-table and “dine” on a feast of leaf salad, sweet-gum ball stew, and a side of acorns. At some point during the game, we always had to clean house. It fell to Katherine and I to sweep the floor with imaginary brooms and make-believe dustpans. Taylor tended to the yard, picking up leaves and grass and piling them for a “camp fire” that we would “burn” later that night. Alison kept us on track, leading us in rounds of Whistle While You Work and The Cleaning Song. It was during these role-playing games that I came to realize how different each of our concepts of “home” was. Alison lived in a house with two brothers; the ritual cleaning was a part of her normal life, and so to her, of course it would be a part of our game. Taylor and I had never known what it was like to live without a daddy, so the concept of not having a father was a new experience for us. Katherine, the only child, learned in some aspects what it was like to have brothers and sisters.

On other days, the lot became our battlefield. We never fought against each other; there were greater, unknown enemies to be fought, and even then we knew that to win, we would have to work together. Most of the time, we didn’t put a name to the force we were fighting. We fought the bad guys. We stood up for justice. The hollow, of course, was our fortress, inside of which we were invincible. As the oldest, Alison was the general. We let Taylor be the scout; we would send him out among the trees to listen for coming enemies. He stayed away for as long as he could bear it, always running back and shouting, “They’re coming! Hurry up!” And with Taylor’s call to arms, we sprung into motion. Alison told us which corners of the lot to defend, but we ran around, never following her plan, shooting the bad guys and destroying the evil of the world. The older we got, the more sophisticated our techniques became. The same sweet-gum balls that had served as the main entrĂ©e of our meals the night before suddenly became grenades, which we haphazardly threw, taking out legions of bad guys at a time. The dirt “carpet” of our house became the drawing board where we created battle strategies and plans of attack. We learned together what it meant to battle the evil in our world. The enemy didn’t always have a name. It never had a face. We stood unrelenting, though, for what we believed in; to protect the hollow and the lot that we loved.

When my family moved to the house on Brookwood, there was another empty lot across the street. It was different, though, from the last. It had only two trees and lots of blank space; in no way could one feel isolated from the world as we had in the hollow. The differences, however, went beyond the physical. In my new neighborhood, there were far fewer children than there were on Willow Oak, so I spent a lot of alone time in the new lot. At ten years old, I was the perfect age to learn what it meant to be independent; the lot on Brookwood gave me the classroom for my lessons. One of the trees was the perfect shape for climbing it with a book- the branches formed a chair that, like the books that I was growing to love, gave me a new perspective on all that was around me. Other times, I would just lie on the grass and stare at the clouds, experiencing the wonder of nature and trying to grasp the God who created it all.

I realize that both of these places were instrumental in the definition of my sense of community. Through the first, I realized what it was to be in a group. We cooperated. We compromised. We coordinated ourselves into a hierarchy. It was in the lot on Willow Oak that I realized how many different roles an individual can assume. I could be a daughter, a soldier, or a spy. Even at my young age, I found that one person could play an infinite number of parts. I also realized how versatile a place could be. If we were creative, we could use the same resources for a million different purposes. Although it was radically different, the lot on Brookwood also taught me. I learned the importance of being alone, and I discovered that even when you are a part of a community, there is a time when you need to escape, to develop a sense of self without which you cease to be part of your surroundings at all.

The lot on Willow Oak isn’t there anymore; they built a house on it shortly after we moved. While it’s disappointing to think that there will be no other sets of actors and actresses playing within the trees and the hollow, I know with certainty that the children on Willow Oak have surely found their own stage.

1 comment:

Angela said...

I like it. It makes me want to be a kid again :) Thanks for sending me on a trip down my own memory lane by seeing a glimpse into your own.