Childhood. The old-fashioned way.
I spent many happy hours belly down on the grass in my backyard, observing ants foraging for food and carrying it back to their forever active and freshly dug ant hills.
Interestingly, I haven’t seen any ant hills here in the Pacific Northwest since moving here in 2006. At least, not like the ones back east. They were EVERYWHERE in upstate New York. Alabama had a lot of ant hills too, but they were home to the red ant variety (and you didn’t want to be belly down too close to those!)
In New York, we had the medium and large-sized, black ants. I remember being mesmerized by the antennae greetings as they passed each other at the portal to their complex chambers underground. I always imagined that they were high-fiving each other as they passed — but deep down, I knew it was more significant than that.
I will admit that it was during this same period of entomological curiosity when I experimented with the magnification of the suns rays. What can I say? Curiosity combined with childhood sometimes leads to bad decisions.
And with that childhood blanket defense, I may as well confess that I also explored the magnification of the sun’s rays on the backs of my schoolmates necks when we were standing in line at the Assumption School. But, everybody was doing it. Ouch!
As a young, curious boy, I spent days sifting through the eroding bank of soft dirt at the edge of Lockwood Drive that led down steeply into the Annsville woods. I found some really cool things there. Some native American arrowheads and old medicine bottles from earlier days there. Everything that I brought back into the house at the end of those days was a real treasure to me. For some reason, my mother didn’t think so. But then, she wasn’t an archeologist like me, was she?
Of course, like all young archeologists, we tried to dig to China a few times as well. Once, my brother and I thought that we might find a tunnel behind our closet wall. About thirty minutes later, we climbed through the crumbled plaster into our parent’s room. Their reaction must have been traumatic, because for the life of me, I can’t remember how they reacted. It must be suppressed.
Some of my favorite childhood memories involve long hours pedaling down new streets and paths on my banana seat bike with the center gear shaft. Every turn down a previously unexplored avenue held endless possibilities. As an explorer, the top of every hill had potential to offer the most magnificent view. Each new trail off the road might lead to a secret world, previously unexplored by any other kids in the neighborhood — an undiscovered landmark full of mystery and adventure. A young boy couldn’t resist a mysterious trail or unknown road. We were childhood pioneers and adventure was our game.
We also explored old buildings that were left vacant for whatever reason. There was a sense of danger when we did this, especially if the vacant building had a No Trespassing sign nearby. But, that just made us more curious. Why do they not want people trespassing there? What are they trying to hide?
The fact that we most likely read a Hardy Boys mystery the night before only stoked our imaginations of what might be in the next room or in the concealed cave in the woods. The Fort Hill woods in Peekskill actually had some cool hidden caves, and plenty of Revolutionary War remnants, like old stone walls where muskets once lay.
We had BB gun wars in those Fort Hill woods. Don’t worry, though — we had a two-pump rule and we wore sunglasses.
When I was young, children sought out adventure. We were curious about everything around us. It didn’t take much to get our imagination running wild. I sometimes wonder if children today are filled with the same natural curiosity about the natural world around them?
Are they still filled with adrenaline when a new path is discovered in the woods?
Do they still think there is treasure somewhere underneath their feet?
I hope so, because there is.
There really is.