In response to today’s daily prompt.
I used to love hideouts. Just between you and I, I still do. Always the social one, I’m feeling the need more often than not these days to have my own space, a get-away, to be left alone with my thoughts, a book, pen and paper.
Not counting all the blanket forts draped between the couch and coffee table, dining table and chairs, or both, my first hideout was a little shack I threw together in a small wooded area behind my childhood home in Portland. I was in the 4th grade, maybe 5th, and would play out there pretty much every day. A tomboy at heart, I loved the dirt and playing outside. I’d climb trees, splash through puddles, and run through the woods with my friends while we pretended Bigfoot was chasing us.
When a construction site of new homes cropped up on the other side of this tiny forest, we started scavenging the site, looking for leftover soda cans and bottles that we could trade in at the itty bitty convenience store down the road. We’d get a five cent refund for each one and then turn around and buy candy with it. Back then there were all kinds of small candies that were only five cents each.
As construction on the homes progressed, the workers tossed out pieces of plywood and carpet remnants. I would drag off each piece to a spot not far from our backyard fence. There I created walls by propping up the pieces of plywood around the base of a tree. I put one big piece across the top as a roof. It resembled a house of cards and was full of just as many awkward angles and cracks but it was pretty darn cozy. I made a little bench to sit on and draped a piece of carpet over it. Another piece of carpet covered the damp ground like a tiny little rug.
I remember sitting inside my hideout, daydreaming and writing. I’m not sure what I wrote about back then other than a play that I put on at my elementary school. It wasn’t a play that I wrote but one I put together from the book, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I also used to draw a little. I was never very good at it, rendering drawings of cartoon-like cats and dogs. The next and only other hideout I created was made from tumbleweeds, actually from clearing out some space in a field of tumbleweeds. We had moved to Eastern Oregon and for some reason I found it fun to crawl around through that stuff. There was no cozy setup like my previous hideout and this one wasn’t the least bit weatherproof. I also had company in there with me quite often, the unwelcome company of big yellow and gray spiders. Although they kept to themselves, they were a little unsettling.
Hideouts continue to intrigue me. While house hunting we found a house with a narrow, low-ceilinged little space hidden behind a bookshelf in a spare room. It was a tiny, carpeted space with a small window at the far end. I couldn’t begin to stand up in it but I was enthralled, envisioning myself laying in this little hidden room… and writing. We didn’t end up buying that house but I still think about it often.
I’m writing this now in the house we did end up buying. It doesn’t have a secret hideout but it’s pretty darn sweet just the same. I am upstairs in one of our guest rooms, it’s part guest room, part office – an adult “hideout” where I can sit (mostly) uninterrupted. The door has to be open a crack for the cats and dogs. A shut door is an invitation. As with children who inevitably stick their fingers underneath a closed door when a parent is on the opposite side, a closed door in my house sends a signal to all the animals that they must come immediately and scratch at the door. Again, and again, and again. With 5 house pets, that adds up to a lot of door scratching and disruption.
When it comes to me and my wanting a hideout, not much has changed over the years yet everything is different. The days of daydreaming are gone. I’m more likely to ponder, to mull things over, to process, to muse, to remember, to contemplate. Instead of carpet remnants on the ground I now have cork. There are no cracks, no sagebrush walls, and my house doesn’t exactly sit in the middle of the woods or out in the desert but I do have a window that looks out on a hillside full of pines, along with miles and miles of mountain forests and high desert nearby. Nowadays I take photos of my pets instead of drawing them. And, much to my dismay, when I do try to draw, my animal drawings still look like cartoons.