We used to build these fantastic forts out of branches and twigs and enormous leaves that grew on some variety of oak or ash trees. Truthfully, I can’t remember. It was so many years ago. Every day during the summer, my brother, sister, and I would get ready for the day and head out. Which basically equated to my mom giving me a can of root beer or Hawaiian Punch and a bag of sliced lemon (this was what I asked for, not some devious maternal plot to punish me with sour tartness as a child). My brother and sister got a similar supply and the rest we got from the woods.
Blackberries grew all summer long, it seemed, and we would eat them right off the plant. We drank out of the stream running through the woods behind our house. Leaves replaced toilet paper. And clothing at times.
The forts were basically long, low, triangular hallways that stretched the length of one to two queen size blankets. We’d take the blankets with us to use as flooring, a cheap thin carpet of sorts.
One afternoon, I sat in my fort, on my burgundy blankets, and sipped root beer in between sucking on slices of lemon. It was raining but the inside of the fort remained completely dry. My brother and sister were occupied similarly.
I listened to the sound of the rain. We were still living in Pennsylvania at the time so I couldn’t have been more than eight (we moved to Southern California in late ‘88). But I remember the sound of the rain on the leaves over my head. And the way the air seemed green beneath them. And the smell in that green air, damp and earthy. It smelled like home.
I finished my root beer and when the rain tapered off to a slow drizzle, we exited our forts and found branches as large as we could carry (my sister would have been five at most so they weren’t very large). After carefully constructing our forts, we absolutely demolished them. We pretended we were Vikings, which says something about what we knew about Vikings as children. Apparently, in our minds they were dead set on destruction and not much else.
We gathered up our blankets and plastic baggies that recently housed lemon slices and soda cans and made our way towards the edge of the forest and our house.
And we knew we’d go out the next day and spend hours constructing a new fort, or some number of them, only to break them down with brute force.
And that’s life, right? Build it up. Rebuild it when it’s broken down. Repeat.