I was a child of the 70s, raised on goats' milk and bad TV. My fantasy family were Hawkeye Pierce, Daisy Duke and Laura Ingalls. But we lived on thirteen acres of land bordered by state forest and cow pastures in Northern Minnesota and not even BJ and the Bear could keep me inside for long.
I don't remember a time when I wasn't allowed to play on my own, wandering aimlessly through the woods for hours. I followed my imagination as far as my legs would take me, perfected the trick of shimmying through barbed wire and electric fences, hunted for treasure in collapsing old cabins and climbed sap-sticky jack pines.
I even had my own island. Technically, I guess it belonged to my family, but none of the rest of them had any use for it. So I claimed it as mine. It wasn't much more than a marshy clump of mud that sat in the river that bordered our land, covered with waist-deep grass and birch trees. But in my mind it was a special secret place all my own. In the winter I would ice skate around it until I was numb, more often than not, misjudging the thickness of the ice and plunging one leg into freezing water up to my knee.
My mother must have had nerves of steel, trusting that I would come home in one piece at the end of the day.
It makes me sad that my kids won't have that. They pinball back and forth between their dad's suburban townhouse and mine. I do, at least have a yard, but there is no wilderness - no trees to climb, no river to ford. Just a somewhat manicured lawn and a swing set surrounded by a tall, wooden fence. They don't really like to play out there much, and I don't blame them.
Eric and I have been talking lately about the possibility of buying a house together. So this morning on the way to school, I asked Lucas what kind of a house he'd like to live in. He answered that he wanted to live in a big white house out in the country, with birds singing and a train going by.
So do I, kiddo, so. do. I.