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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #1522843
A young girl is lonely; imagination her only companion.
I was lonely as a young child.  Having been born into a small farming community where there were no more than a half-dozen houses within a mile radius, playmates were non-existent.  The only non-adults besides my brother and I were a couple of brothers.  Unfortunately, my mother had a very strict rule that stated, “Little girls don’t play with boys!”  How I longed for a sister!

Since a little sister seemed to be out of the question and not up for discussion, I was forced to entertain myself – there was just me and my imagination.

When I was very young my gateway was under the front porch.  I discovered I could pull back the latticework surrounding it far enough to squeeze into the shadowed, sun-dappled interior.  It became my very own little house.  There I could have tea parties for my doll where a scrap of board became our table; a few borrowed table knives, sneaked from the silverware drawer, and stuck in between the foundation boards of the house became a piano where I performed my very own concerts.  The various possibilities of my little hideaway kept me entertained for quite a few years.

Later, I discovered a huge apple tree where I could climb into the spreading boughs, watch the birds flit all around me – and escape into whatever worlds I could envision in my mind.

When I was about eight, my dad started working on a ‘project’.  “Daddy, what are you making?”

“You’ll see.  It’s a surprise.”

Well, nothing worked up my curiosity faster than knowing that there was a surprise in the works and not knowing what it was.  So I began doing a little sleuthing.

I trailed him every time he went to the garage, creeping up to the window where I could observe what was going on inside.  Time after time, I was disappointed to find him tinkering around under the hood of the car; I was sure that my surprise wasn’t to be found there!

One evening I discovered him sifting through a stack of scrap wood.  Oh, boy!  He’s building me a playhouse!  He chose first one piece and then another, before rejecting them both and returning them to their resting place.  Finally he picked one good-sized board, sighted along it with a critical eye, and then hefted its weight.  With a nod of his head, he placed it in the vise on the edge of the workbench and picked up his auger.  As I watched, he measured and marked before beginning to drill two holes – one near each end of the board. If this is the surprise, what on earth could it be?

The next week my cousins came for a visit at my Grandmother’s who lived just down the road.  I spent most of my time with the girl cousins exploring the barns, playing with a litter of young kittens, roaming over the pasture fields and daring each other to feats of physical prowess.

“Bet you can’t jump across the creek here!”

“Bet I can!”

“Oh, yeah?  I double-dare you!”

Of course, sooner or later, we all ended up soaking wet; but it was summer, our clothing would dry out eventually.  I didn’t care because I had someone with whom to play.

The end of the week came all too fast and they had to go home.  Alone again, I stood on my grandmother’s porch and waved until the car was out of sight before plodding homeward.  Dejected, I went to bed without being told and slept soundly until late the next morning.

I finally dragged myself out of bed and trudged downstairs where my dad was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee.

“Hey, sleepyhead, your mom and I thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“Might as well,” I said in a surly voice.  “There’s nothin’ else to do.”

“Well, eat your breakfast and then I got something I want to show you and your brother.”

Somewhat mollified, I hurried through a bowl of cereal and jumped down from the table.  “I’m ready!”  I trailed him out of the door.  He called to my brother, who was hauling dirt from a bank in his dump truck, and led the way out of the yard and across a small field toward a line of trees.

As we neared the tree line, he stopped and waved his arm toward one particular tree.  “There’s the surprise I told you about.”

“Oh, boy! A tree swing!” my brother shouted, running to jump onto the seat.  He backed the swing up the bank as far as it would go and then shoved off, leaning back to get the most forward momentum.

While he whooped and yelled, I stood and marveled at what the lowly board I’d seen Daddy drilling had become.  Shining steel cables emerged from each of the holes up and up, for what seemed like a mile to me, and were securely fastened around a branch nearly as big as my body.

My brother soon tired of trying to attain altitude, jumped off the still-moving swing and went back to his dump truck.  I went to the swing, grasped the cables and stood on tiptoe to settle comfortably in the seat.  I gave a few tentative pushes and gazed upward into the leafy branches so far above my head.

“You like it?” Daddy asked.

“Oh yes!”  I could feel the glow on my face. 

“Okay.  Have fun.”  With a smile, he turned back toward the house.

Over the years that followed, I spent many happy hours in that swing.  Sometimes I would soar high, straining to touch my toes on a branch of a neighboring tree.  Other times I would just gently rock back and forth letting my imagination do the flying and creating stories in my head.  That one spot in the dappled shade became the best Gateway to the Stars I had ever had.  A child who is forced to spend so much time alone has to find some escape and . . . I was lonely.

Word Count:  1018

© Copyright 2009 Jaye P. Marshall (jayepmarshall at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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