A boy and his fort.
Last week, with just two chairs, cushions and a blanket (which, of course, is all you really need), my husband made Keaton his very first living room fort. And as you can see, young Master Keats is pretty darn proud of it. He brought his prized musk ox stuffy in there (on its side, as you see) and all the pillows off the chairs and couch to make it just right in there. Usually a book or two, as well. Even though he’s only 19 months old, I think it’s still important for him to have his own little place to retreat to. And he seems pretty excited that it’s his very own fort.
I’ve always been interested in the landscape of childhood, and how as children we navigate the spaces around us – how as children we know our homes, classrooms, and neighbourhoods so well, including all the nooks and crannies (that alcove in the front room where you can hide during hide and seek, or the path that you’re convinced is enchanted in your local park). I’m interested in this so much so, in fact, that I based part of my MA thesis on it. And I’m a big believer in secret spaces for children – treehouses, forts, hidden gardens, favourite climbing trees, and the like. In Children’s Experience of Place, Roger Hart wrote that “[t]here may be a basic urge for each of us to surround ourselves with a known, and hence, safe space to which we can retreat in terms of danger or difficulty.”
Even if it’s just to have some autonomy from an adult’s world for a while in their own place, I think all children seek out their own special, secret spaces. When I was a kid my secret spaces were the cherry tree in our yard (one of the best climbing trees I’ve ever found) and my reading nook in my bedroom for which my mum had sewn two enormous pillows to recline on and read my beloved Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books. In our old house there was a long closet in my bedroom (which we, of course, thought was pretty spooky) with a small, mysterious door on one wall of the long closet. I always imagined that behind the door there was a beautiful room that only I knew about. It had high ceilings and wallpaper that had big roses on it, and there was a huge chandelier hanging from the middle of the room. There were big couches and chairs made of plushy red velvet, and delicate little cakes on pretty plates covered in glass. It was my secret room. I never tried to open that door in the closet because I always wanted to keep the dream alive that the beautiful room was actually behind it.
But back to Keaton and his fort. He’s in there right now as I type this, flipping through the new bag of books we just brought home from the library. (Thomas the Take Engine ABC seems to be his favourite.)
I’m glad he’s so excited by his fort.
And usually, if you ask nicely, Keaton will allow you into his special space. Especially cool, fun grandpas.