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a story from childhood

on Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:58 pm
As soon as I was old enough to crawl, I was crawling away. I took up residence Elsewhere, from which I could visit other elsewhere’s but only those invited could visit mine. The first such place I found was the dog crate. The dog crate was in the dark back mudroom of my childhood house that later burned down, which was a part of the house seldom visited or remembered by the others living there. It must have been two by four feet, just large enough to hold my families black lab mix, Lucy. And, as it happened, the cat, three quilts, two dolls, and me. I would turn the door of the crate around, so the latch was on the inside, thus making it unreachable to those outside, and would—with what I imagine was a three year olds version of jubilant independence—lock us in for hours. It was not a place that one would expect to find a three year old and so for years, where I spent the bulk of my time at home remained a mystery to my family.
Outgrowing the dog crate, both physically and emotionally, meant finding a new place to pass away the hours. This was when I discovered my neighbor’s woodshed. It was cozy in the small, hand built structure, swaddled as it was by tarps on three sides. I would climb up onto the stacked logs and become immersed in conversation and games with my imaginary friends, Dono and Zoann. I was accustomed to sharing my space with others, so the spiders that would crawl into my hair never bothered me, and Dono and Zoann agreed to be quiet when asked.
At times, Jack, whose woodshed it was and who told me he born in 1926 would come out of his house to chop wood. He never asked what I was doing or said that I had to leave, but instead would tell me stories as he worked and I stacked the wood he chopped. Jack had grown up the Ballard neighborhood of north Seattle, directly across the Sound from where we were on Bainbridge. He said his house was still the same, but that a new family lived there. He had studied politics and literature at UW, but went on to medical school to become a general practice doctor and, still later, a psychologist. Some days, he told me about wars and what it meant to be drafted and how to become a conscientious objector. He insisted that I must always believe that a world without war is possible, because it was. Other times, he would talk about traveling, being a Quaker, and poetry—as well as nature and the book he was writing at the time, and the one his wife, Judy, was writing about abuse of the mentally ill. After chopping wood, he would show me what was growing in their garden and give me carrots to snack on. I knew then that I, too, wanted to be a writer and a gardener and, as he put it, a pacifist.

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