24 April 2007

My Terabithia

Did you have a magical place when you were a child? I had a few. The first was in my backyard, where a huge forsythia bush (actually, bushes, I think) created pockets underneath its branches. Those became rooms for playing house, places to hide from other neighborhood kids, and a spot to tell secrets to my best friend Heather.

My other two spots were both at my grandparents' place. I've been thinking of one of them for a month now, ever since my family went back to the small town of Palmersville, Tennessee, to bury my grandmother next to my grandfather, near the farm where he was raised and which he farmed after his retirement from the Air Force. I used to spend several weeks each summer with my grandparents...a city girl plopped down in the middle of the country with fields and woods galore to explore. For several years there was a small "island" formed by the diverted water of the creek that ran across the road from my grandparents' house. That island became all sorts of adventurous places for me, as I considered myself "Peter Pan." I knew every inch of that little piece of land, before time and water, and I'm pretty sure some ditch digging on the part of a neighbor farmer, took that little island away.

The next year I set about finding my next "spot," and soon came upon a place that truly did give me a feeling of awe and magic. On the edge of a field behind my grandparents' house I found a locust grove surrounding a small pond. Even in the heat of a summer afternoon it was cool under those trees. And unlike most of the woods, there was little brush under the branches, making it a perfect place to sit and think, throw stones into the pond, or have a picnic lunch. I remember one spring break I shared my spot with a friend, and we played up there for days. I had named it "Terabithia," after the book Bridge to Terabithia, by Katharine Patterson, because this was my place for imaginary creatures and daring stories.

Even after I outgrew those imaginary adventures, that locust grove held a spell over me. While I began spending more time at my grandparents' house riding the four-wheeler and racing across the fields rather than tromping through the woods, I would still always stop and wander through my Terabithia, and smile. Sadly, I can't remember if I stopped by that magical spot when I was last visiting my grandparents' house in 2001, helping them pack up their few belongings and move to Louisville. What I do know is that when Mom and I drove past the farm last month, the locust grove had been cut down by that neighbor who now owns my grandfather's old farm.

A little spot of magic, gone. Except in my memory and imagination, where Terabithia, and places like it, can flourish forever.

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