I can remember sucking in to squeeze through the fence at the end of the road, and whispering once through it, lest the spies tell the “evil king” that I was trespassing in his forest.
I remember riding our horses (okay, bikes with jump ropes tied ’round the handlebars) to the creek, and sticking our toes in the water while we made up rules for a game that never ended.
I remember running behind fence rows with my best friend Meeghan, spying on the neighbors through knotholes. We were certain that one day we’d land ourselves a good mystery. You know, stumble upon some robbers or overhear plans for a dangerous plot of some sort.
We kept copious notes on the goings on of our neighborhood, and left them in a cigar box under the Sycamore tree where we held our “Spy Club” meetings.
So you’ll understand, won’t you, when I say that I’d like to leave my children alone in the woods?
Not in the Hansel and Gretel sense. of course. It’s just that a whole lot of good stuff goes on in there when the adults aren’t looking on. Hierarchies are created, landmarks are named, histories are invented, plans unfold.
It is unfortunate though, that I don’t live in a place where I can trust my children to the trees without wondering who might be lurking behind them. So I go with them, into the woods, and I try to blend in.
On our walk a few days back, we found this fantastic place. It’s a circle made up of limbs, boulders, car parts and even an old barrel grill. In the center is a fire ring.
My guys investigated it thoroughly, of course, and claimed it as their own, without even so much as a thought that it might already have tenants.
They began to make plans for adding on “rooms” and bringing out “supplies” to their “base camp.”
I stayed back and pretended to be engrossed in some plant or another while they populated this new world.
It was just like seeing one of our all time favorite stories, Roxaboxen, come to life. (Seriously, this is one to buy, not just borrow. We read it LOTS, and it gets to me every single time).
When we came home from our walk we read the story again. Then, my inspired littles headed right out to our yard to drag around rocks and yard debris. They were founding fathers of their own settlement, barking orders at each other and declaring things like, “let’s pretend this is the road between our houses. Okay, but let’s make it a toll road, and you have to pay three of these berries to ride your motorcycle on it.”
You know how tiger cubs tumble around with each other, mock fighting, in preparation for when they are great hunters?
It’s like that, to watch kids play at creating the world. Cute and funny, but also tinged with the knowledge that they are playing out the roles they are destined for: becoming men, men who set up house, choose a trade, weigh in on their country’s laws, make decisions about how they will interact with their neighbors and spend their money.
When they create a world, apart from the one where Daddy and I reign, they are practicing at moving beyond us, standing without us, self-governing.
Amazing and apparently truly important stuff, this world they are building in my backyard. It looks to the near sighted tall people who reign indoors, to be nothing but a mess to clean, but to the citizenry of their as yet nameless colony, to them it is prophecy and possibility.