Thursday, April 20, 2017

Juniper

The memories started when my Danish friend asked me the name of the berry used for gin.

A total blank until five minutes after she left the café where we'd been enjoying une noisette.

In a world where parents schedule almost every minute of their kids' time, I was brought back to my own childhood. Personally, I would kill any parent that did that to me and consider it justifiable homicide.

I did take piano lessons for one year, hating every minute of it. Although at the end I did play "Swaying Silver Birches" in the Key of C with a certain competence. My teacher was the daughter of a Boston Marathon runner.

In grade school there were the dreaded ballroom dancing lessons from Mr. Curry, his piano-playing mother and his boxer. The only advantage to the wasted afternoon came later when alumni had a wonderful dance during high school.

And then there was the time when I was sent to my grandmother's friend after school to learn arts and crafts. After a bout of measles, I refused to return. 

Activities stopped me from what I wanted to do after school.

Play.

We lived on 14 acres of land. There were gardens on the side and back, a hill for sliding in winter and covered with violets in the spring. My grandfather's tool house was half converted into a playhouse. I still wish my father had finished it.

No friends lived nearby, but I had imaginary friends. Each lived somewhere on the land. Maida's home was under the juniper bush (thus the memory trigger) and Anita under one of the big rocks left by a melting glacier eons before. June lived under the other.

We had games of being Romans, Greeks, Tudors, cowboys and indians and even the FBI hunting Al Capone. We rode bikes up and down the semi circular driveway that surrounded our pine grove or roller skated on the porch.

After a rain storm when there were puddles everywhere we would build canals until the water ran into one big puddle where the driveway dipped, then splash in it.

In winter, we built snow forts and snowmen until my grandmother had me bring in a plate of clean snow. She poured hot maple syrup on the snow making the best candy.

On the coldest of days, my imaginary friends and I would play newspaper, draw, paint or just curl up with a book before they had to return to their rock and juniper bush homes.

Playing alone made me happy. Maybe I have such an active imagination today because of it. And it didn't hurt my ability to make friends. Maida, June and Anita sometimes were so stubborn I had to compromise.

Today I have a very active social life with friends of all ages and nationalities. I enjoy all the times we spend together. However, I need alone time or I will break. Fortunately, my former housemate, my daughter and my husband and I all have the ability to be alone together in the same room each engrossed in our activities and thoughts.








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