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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

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.


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Class photos. Old journals. (Many, many old journals.) Notes from my junior high best friend. Play scripts that my sisters and I wrote. Tooth fairy pillows. High school I.D. cards. Au Coton and Colors of Benetton catalogues. Childhood combs. My favourite My Little Pony. Boys’ phone numbers. Old zines. E.T. stickers. My prom dress, even.

I dug up all this childhood/teenage memorabilia and more from my mum’s basement recently. My mum and stepdad are selling the family home, and my sisters and I have spent the last couple of months going out to our hometown of Maple Ridge to sort through tons (and I mean tons) of our old crap in the basement. I guess when we all moved out we just hucked our old stuff down in the depths of the basement, thinking, “Oh, I’ll deal with that later.” Well, now is later, and the sifting through has been incredibly embarrassing, hilarious, mortifying, touching, and enlightening. For a nostalgic sap like me, it’s been really hard parting with some of this stuff. For example, check out my childhood collection of stuffed animals:

Like, are you kidding me? Oh, the memories! Muppet Baby Miss Piggy, a Gremlin fuzzy guy, a Yawny dog puppet, Piglet, Pooh and Eeyore (albeit the Disney versions, so maybe not too hard to part with), my Care Bears, my two Snorks (anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember the Saturday morning cartoon, aptly named The Snorks). Then there’s the Chef doll that my mum lovingly handcrafted out of pantyhose – does anyone remember the 1980s trend of making doll faces and bodies out of pantyhose? I remember my mum buying packages of pantyhose, stuffing them with batting, and then hand sewing them to make these crazy scrunched-up-type pruney faces. But anyway. I don’t know what to do with these guys. Do thrift stores even take stuffed animals? Some of these ones are stained and damaged, so I wouldn’t want to donate those ones, anyway. So what to do? You see, I wrote my MA in Children’s Literature thesis about toy fantasy – books and stories for children in which the toys come alive. All my old stuffies have feelings, I believe. I can’t imagine them languishing in the dusty metal bins of a thrift store or worse, in a landfill. I read The Mouse and His Child, for chrissakes. And maybe it’s also because my toys were such a huge part of my childhood, and I want to hang onto my childhood things a little longer. But as my husband so gently reminds me, we just don’t have the room for all of them. So there they sit, in a pile in Keaton’s toy bin, waiting for me to decide their fate. Waaahh!

Some of the stuff that I unearthed in the basement is just way too awesome (and often awesomely embarrassing) not to share. So, welcome to my new, semi-regular feature, “Notes from the Basement,” featuring tidbits from my past. And now, to get my scanner working…

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