I am an only child. Yeah I know. Roll your eyes. It gets better…
I had an imaginary friend. His name was Jimmy and from what I have been told I would spend my days searching for him – apparently our favorite game was hide and seek and I was always “it”.
Needless to say after many rounds of “hide and seek” with Jimmy my mom made sure to surround me with friends ALOT. It wasn’t difficult because #1 I’m awesome and #2 we were apart of a very close-knit community of military families. But even with this traveling troupe of constant entertainment, I always found solace in myself. I would lose myself in the woods behind my house or constructing a quilted castle on my back deck. Piles of leaves became pieces of furniture, lines traced on the ground were floor-plans, a closet was Barbie’s high-rise, a wall cubbie was a campfire, blankets were walls. I was in control. It was my orbit, my universe. Nobody could tell me what to do and in my mind it was all very real and very important. I was creating an imitation of adult life – observing and regurgitating it back into the land of make-believe.
It is a need for shelter at its rawest. The idea of enclosure, safety, and shelter take precedence over the actual physical structure. We seek and create these ideals throughout our life, but as children it can come from a space between two rocks, a clearing in the wood, or even (as my mom learned) from every blanket you own. There is a magic these places hold for us, the magic of escape, the magic of what life could be if constructed with the imagination of an 8 year old.
Lauren and Clarissa have constructed a monumental fort for me. The piles of books strewn down my hallway are rocks leading me downstream to my saw-horses. Once supporting my desk with all of my very important adult things, they are now catapults for my bed and entry to my fort. Within the fort I have tools for my travels, a very high-tech time travel/mind reading device, a book of comics, a book of fables, and a book of hide and seek (if only I had this for Jimmy). My shag rug has become waves crashing against the shore. The princess, constructed from my ladder and my basketball, stands guard behind me holding a steady, watchful gaze as I float on. Forcing me to turn around, slow down and appreciate the moment and my mind’s own capabilities. They have given me a new orbit – my own universe complete with the moon and the stars as well as a safe escape from spider attacks (see previous entry for more details) and the impending doom of the great divide, I float and realize I am my most adventurous when I feel safe.
On the periphery of the fort are moments of reality. An outfit laid out for wear the next day, music mixes for each day of the week, my art kit open and ready for use, even a heart painted on the mirror with lipstick. Demarcations that this magical land is a construction within a construction of life.
The ridiculousness of childhood – at an age when you have no control over the majority of your life, your imagination can put you in complete control of everything that matters. As the years go by it becomes harder and harder to hold on to this ability of escape and wonderment. The schizophrenia of being a 12-year-old girl creeps in and you are expected to transition from being the kid who pees in the woods to avoid missing an ounce of daylight to going to school dances and talking about boys. I still don’t think I have totally recovered from this shock and I’m constantly trying to get that part of me back. Had I a stronger sense of self at the time I would have realized none of those expectations mattered and usually the most intriguing people are those who forgo them altogether and go with their gut.
But I do believe we continue building forts throughout our life, the first dorm room, the first apartment, the first house. We may no longer use glow-in-the-dark stars and time-travel devices, but the same ideals remain – creating a space of safety, utility, and shelter and constructing new orbits for ourselves. So we are always going back to the fort in the backyard and I hope I never stop looking for Jimmy.