In my memory “the girls”, my sisters, hid daily in our next-door neighbor’s pine paneled basement. Those older kids, almost teenagers, played whole-heartedly. All summer. The Game Of Life. Clue. Cootie. Cribbage. Endless Monopoly games.
As a kid of five or six they grudgingly allowed me to tag along to the basement refuge my sisters loved. I promised to be quiet and swore not to be annoying. The sweet boy-next-door, a young teenager, tossed me over the sofa back into the fluffy pillows. I loved that the most. Then he dove himself with a laugh and Fosbury Flop before it was even a thing. My hero. The black and white TV blinked non-stop gray. A Ping-Pong ball clicked time with our fun. I understood my sisters’ heaven.
That musty basement was real perfection. And then it wasn’t any more. The afternoon when it changed the college-age sister of the sweet boy whose basement we loved stood on the steps yelling “Don’t you kids have your own damn home?” She was fierce and strong and scary as hell. We slunk up the stairs, hearts pounding. Tails tucked, heads down. Unwelcome refugees. Hugging the wall against her glare. Shame.
My sisters continued playing next door but I stayed home. And when I was old enough I spent most of my time on the creek in the woods behind our neighborhood. I loved the green quiet where I basked in made-up adventures. I was a daring hero with a pocketknife and rope coiled on my belt. Keeping my distance with imaginary armor.