Growing up, in a decently developed area, a child thrives to find a place that he or she can call his or her own. They yearn for a secret hiding place, where adults would not venture to follow them in case they ever did anything wrong. Not a lot of kids nowadays have these secret 1)hide-outs, but back in the days when I was growing up, me and around 13—19 other children shared a secret spot, where we would all meet, play and live together like our own 2)twisted family.
The spot where we could all convene was a small wooded patch near our houses. Again, I’ve lived my whole life in 3)New Jersey, where the area is pretty much all developed. So, for us, to have any patch of woods to play in was a big deal. I remember how we discovered the woods: It was during the summer, as we were trying to run away from one of our neighbors, whose house we had just pelted with 4)inkberries. There was only one place to hide—this small patch of woods that, until that moment all of us had looked down upon. To us it had been no more than just some little spot with thorns, bushes and trees.
After we had forgotten we had an angry Mexican neighbor chasing us, we were amazed to see how big this forest really was, and decided to explore. It went a decent way back, with lots of big bushes, young bushes and fallen down tree-trunks. After spending the rest of the day exploring, it was decided that we would make our own little town out there, in the woods, a place where we all could go just to get away from our parents, no-sey neighbors and the angry Mexican.
Over the next week we cut down some of the thorn and bushes within the woods, and replanted some more around the perimeter—for protection (from the angry Mexican). We cut out holes in the center of larger trees, to make little huts, and built a large one out of large branches and twigs, upon a tree that had fallen down and was resting on another. The work was arduous; we had hourly tick checks, and as some of us went home with poison ivy stings, others had thorns lodged in their skin.
But after about a week of non-stop work, we had built 13 little huts and a large centralized hut for a meeting area. Each person had a designated hut; brothers were allowed to share a hut. We had our own little society going on, and it was the best thing we ever had created. We had 2 designated leaders, Kyle and myself. We were the ones who dove into the brush first on that day; we were also the eldest. Together we ruled the area like a small town, and even had trials for those who broke the rules we had made. We loved our little village so much, that one night before the summer had ended, we all snuck out of our houses and stayed in our huts for the night. We roasted 5)marshmallows over an open flame and told stories of how we were now able to trap squirrels and other small animals.
Over the next 4 or 5 summers we returned to our village, full time, sleeping and eating there, and also visited in winter on weekends, and for meetings after school on Fridays. But, unfortunately, like most children, we all grew up and outgrew playing in the forest together. Time had slipped by us, as one by one we just stopped going there. The brush in wooded patch proceeded to grow uncontrollably, as it had before we discovered it. We left it in our past, and continued with our lives.
On Thursday October 3rd, when coming home for fall break from college, I drove around the block, only to see tree cutters and surveyors clearing out our woods. Standing around the forest were 5 people, looking on with nostalgia. It was 5 of my friends I had grown up with, just as stunned as I was, as they watched our childhood go into the 6)chipper, becoming developed, just as all the rest of the area was.
Once again childhood is slipping away. The good times I shared with those other kids in that wooded patch are now just memories. I can’t go and take a hike through the trees to see how badly it had been overrun by the growing brushes. Nor could I take pictures to keep them forever in a 7)scrapbook... Now it’s all gone, and it’s too late to take pictures. As we stood there, watching, we talked about how much we loved playing in those woods together; how it gave us all a sense of belonging and a place of refuge.
I have noticed how much our neighborhood has changed for the worse since we all entered adulthood. All of us are a little more nostalgic for that forest. Now, none of the young children in the neighborhood can 8)relive the joy we found in a little patch of woods we called our own.