Before you were born, I looked out at our backyard and spied bits of overgrown bushes and thought, “I’m not cutting those down because someday I’m going to have a child here who wants to turn them into a secret place. Taking away those bushes would be like stealing that child’s imagination and it won’t be me who’s responsible for that.”
Now, I’d just like to say, GET OUT OF THE HOLE.
At the bottom of the hill at the corner of the fence is a dirty patch of shade under arching canes of forsythia and a runaway boxwood. It is, bar none, your favorite place to go after racing to the bottom of the hill. It can’t be seen from the house and you hide there, still as a mouse, until someone says your name. Then you start shrieking with laughter and the bushes rattle around you, betraying that you’re in your hole. This is what I am thinking everytime you tuck yourself away:
Your shorts will be filthy
Your hair will have leaves, or worse, bugs.
What if there are spiders?
Oh god, there are probably ticks.
Remember to check that child for ticks.
Are you even really down there?
Aww, I love to hear you laugh.
Can snakes hear?
You better laugh louder, little girl!
Do you suppose there are black widows in the woodpile?
I can’t even imagine a two-year-old with Lyme.
GET OUT OF THE HOLE!
What are you even doing down there?
Am I going to have to haul you out?
Oh, you have a place. A secret place. A place to fuel your imagination. You are the best baby ever.
Please tell me there isn’t poison ivy down there.
There totally is, isn’t there?
I cannot believe I have to go down and get you out. Again.
Believe it or not, I am much more free-spirited about the hole than your mother is. You should also know that, because we love you very much, we’ve been letting the bushes grow taller. Your mother spent most of a weekend clearing out suspicious vines, picking up questionable debris and filling holes where we’d ripped out stumps. I have double-checked the fenced corner for webs, fangs and dead things. And we have seen you watching us. Making sure we don’t blur the magic of your spot. And we have seen you spying other places to hide and cackle just in case. Between the compost bins. Tucked behind the compressor. Under the holly. And I have noticed you walking heel to toe, ever so carefully, on the wobbly bricks of the flowerbed mostly out of sight while your mother called your name, looking for you.
These things do not mean it’s okay for you to squat there, laughing hysterically, while I fend off swarms of mosquitos trying to reach in your hole to fetch you out. Nor should you commence screaming in misery and indignation when I carry you back up the hill and into the house. And please keep in mind that checking for ticks is not a reason to dance around like a rabid squirrel, cackling and shouting TICKLETICKLETICKLE!
And when you are sixteen and full of angry hormones, I hope you and I both remember that we left those bushes long so that you would have a secret place all your own the summer that you were two.