On my way to work last week, I passed a tree fort.
Its wooden beams were nailed crookedly across the barren, winter branches of a massive oak. I slowed my car, with a sudden impulse to stop and climb the splintered steps. I could huddle inside, read a book, perhaps listen to my iPod or simply sit in solitude. But reality reared its mortgage-paying, responsible-adult ugly head, and so I sighed, continuing my drive to the office.
I spent the earliest years of my life in a tiny, red-shingled house, smaller in its entirety than the first floor of my current home. One bathroom. One television. Four boisterous females and a quiet, tolerant father whose inclination for drinking I now more clearly understand.
I came in second, after my father, as the quiet one. (Pause for snorts of laughter from readers who know me.) Perhaps surprisingly, even now I am prone to needing blocks of solitude and silence. In my childhood home, mere moments of silent solitude were elusive.
At those times of need, I retreated down to our unfinished basement, climbed upon a chair and crawled into the wooden hamper that hung below our clothes chute. I sat there in my private little cage, my indoor tree fort, often for hours. I read Nancy Drew books, wrote poems, rehearsed what I might say the next day at school to that cute boy in my class.
I needed that cage. It was my getaway.
Many years later, after Son #2 was born, I took a year off from full-time work to stay home with my children and to test the waters for my freelance writing career. My emotions while caring for a new baby and a two-year-old fluctuated between exhilarated, content and nearly suicidal.
I took to taking afternoon drives from my home in northwest Ohio, up State Route 23, to Dundee, Michigan. Exactly a one-hour, round-trip drive, with both young boys invariably falling asleep in the back seat within the first five minutes. A mindless drive, a blissfully silent hour. It kept my sanity and rejuvenated me for the rest of my day. It was my getaway.
As a new empty-nester, I live alone in a large house which now echoes only with the infrequent sound of a barking dog and memories of more chaotic times. I finally have plenty of quiet solitude.
Even so, I still feel the need for an occasional escape--from reality, if nothing else. At any given point in our lives, it appears we still need a getaway. A trip to the beach may feed that hunger. For me, even a three-minute drive down to the river, parking to watch the rapids, works in a pinch.
But sometimes, still, I find myself gazing wistfully at tree forts.
Where do you go to escape?