Behind my childhood home grew my childhood yard. Behind my childhood yard, a thick gathering of assorted species of trees grew abruptly and seemingly out of nowhere, as if my best friend and I were gifted a small personalized forest. Nestled inside, a swamp overgrown with shrubbery, bushes, and fallen trees set the scene for our childhood fort, our very own shelter from the world outside of it, the world teeming with adults and responsibilities.
Because it was our place in the forested world and we owned the grounds, we also owned its rules. Rule one was a mutual understanding of boundaries: no pushing of thy friend into thy swamp. Rule two carried the continuing maintenance of keeping the sacredness and secrecy that bound us to what was once our fort, now turned hideout, just between the two of us. It was The Hideout’s secrecy that kept it ours’.
As the days turned into years, our hideout served more than just the designated meet up location between and behind our two houses. It was the spot where I mustered up enough courage to test out a homemade swing that I tethered to a tree that swung over the entire swamp. It was the first time that I can recall fully trusting my own judgment in a dangerous situation. I can still feel the metallic taste of fear settling in my throat as I go back through articles of memory to the moment of launch. With all of my weight, I remember swinging across the vast width of the swamp, getting spun around with the pull of gravity, my black Chuck Taylors skidding against bark as I returned to my initial starting point, landing less than gracefully, but successfully none-the-less.
There were many “firsts” between the two of us that were experienced at The Hideout: first informal, puppy love-induced dates; first childhood crushes; first innocent kisses. Whenever arguments arose in my family’s home or when I couldn’t bear another second in my adolescent awkwardness during my preteen years, I found solace and peace in those woods. Further into my teenage years, I started spending less and less time at The Hideout due to an increase in priorities; I simply couldn’t be at two places at one time.
In the event that I needed my world to be still, I always found myself returning to The Hideout mentally. It has always been a great means of meditation for me, allowing me to hideout in a more peaceful place buried in my imagination and memory.
The amount of gratitude I have for the place that has over-served its purpose is indescribable. As it sits to this day, The Hideout has not physically changed much from the first day my best friend and I found its location. Today, just as I did when I was six, I can go behind my childhood home and into those woods and experience a moment of respite. Whether it be a peaceful moment in real time or in my head, The Hideout has always been like an older, supportive sibling for me to run toward when life becomes challenging, and to an only-child, this makes The Hideout irreplaceable.