Friday, March 11, 2005

Paradise and The Pit

The street on which I grew up dead ends into a small body of water the owner named "Paradise Pond." The rest of us call it "The Pit."

The Pit was to my childhood what the old abandoned house and creepy cat lady are to more notorious childhood legends. According to neighborhood lore, the owner barred the entrance to automobiles a few decades ago after three drunken teenagers drove themselves down our road, making The Pit their own personal graveyard.

Stories like this one and rumors about drug deals and satanic rituals made The Pit off-limits to us kids, unless I was walking the dogs. Of course, making it off-limits also made it our favorite place to hang out. My friends and I spent many afternoons and weekends exploring The Pit and its surrounding marshland swamp. A few of our favorite hangouts were The Wall, a rusty, abandoned crane and a little fort we made in the nest of some hills.

The Wall was just that; a rugged cement remnant of some long-forsaken building covered with graffiti and over run with trees and weeds. In retrospect, it sort of reminds me of the Graffiti Bridge in Purple Rain. The wall is where the "big kids" hung out and where the drug and satanic action supposedly took place, so it was specifically off-limits. Although it was generally strewn with beer cans and cigarette butts, I have only one memory of seeing a bunch of trashed teens standing around a fire at The Wall and they didn't seem to be offering any sacrifices to me.

The crane wasn't really in The Pit, but in the marshy swampland on its outskirts. Every once in a while we sought out a dry trail through the reeds and spent hours climbing in and around the crane. Others might have seen it as an unsightly wreck or a case of tetanus waiting to happen, but to us, it was our very iron-oxidized fortress of solitude, moat included. Sometimes we would even bring a boom box and a picnic out there to make a day of it.

Our most secluded place, however, was a nest in the crown of a few hills, hidden from the prying eyes of the nearby trail. Here my friends and I would nestle down in the long, dry grass and share our lives. We would twitter about boys and vent about family. We would divulge our personal stories and unfurl our dreams of growing up and getting away.

Lately I dream less frequently of growing up and more frequently of getting away. However, the more I dream of getting away, the more I realize I have no stable place from which to take off. I have no crumbling wall of graffiti, no rusted fortress, no batted nest from which to take flight. The more I dream of getting away, the more I long for a take-off point. Perhaps, while in a state of growth, we dream of leaving the nest, yet in a state of being grown, it is the flight we dream of leaving behind.