My childhood was extremely wholesome. I played games like “Lions,” where my siblings, uncle and I would crawl around my grandmother’s living room, growling and pouncing on throw pillows. (It’s still fun, believe me). Other games included crouching under a big bush on the side of our house and pretending to be Batman. Beth, my first friend and next-door neighbor, and I would go into the woods and drag fallen branches to make a corral for our pretend ponies, which came, of course, from Chincoteague. There was a lot of tree-climbing and fort-building. We’d walk a quarter mile down the street to the Churchill’s house (our next door neighbors to the east) and ice skate in the winter, and Mrs. Churchill would make us cocoa when we could no longer feel our extremities.
Other games were not quite so Little House on the Prairie. My dad liked to play a creepy game with us, a twist on hide-and-seek he called Evil Lurks in the Darkness. The Robinson kids and Higgins kids would play a game of cowboys and Indians that involved ropes around necks and hitting with whiffle bats. My sister, who was not as avid a reader as I was, would beg me to play when I was engrossed in a book, so I would say, “Sure. We can play Queen and Slave. I’m the Queen. Get me some ice cream, slave.” (Sissy didn’t love that game as much as I did, for some reason).
This was the kind of childhood I wanted the Hollands to have had in the Blue Heron series. All that land, all those potential hiding places. The lake, the waterfalls, the beautiful gorges and forests. How could you not want to be outside, go skating on a little pond that no one else knew about, or build fairy houses in a crumbling stone barn? Because it’s times like that…those small, simple, magical days…that bind a person to a place, and fill your heart with golden memories, and make you want to find a fairy ring out in the woods, look at the base of a tree and remember the time you took your Fluff and peanut butter sandwich up there with your copy of Jane Eyre and spend the afternoon surrounded by bird song and squirrel chatter, lost and fully at home at the same time.
I should know. I live next door to my childhood home. : ) I still look for fairy houses in the woods. And I find them.