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Depending on the number of brothers and sisters you had, or the size of the house or apartment you grew up in, you may have felt more or less urgency to get away from the crowd. I think even ‘only’ children like to be tucked away sometimes, hidden from the world. All kids seem to love it.
My wife grew up with three sisters and two brothers, in a small house, and she remembers retreating to an upstairs closet for hours at a time. Sequestered in a dark corner, she was well beyond the reach of her pesky little brothers, and the imaginary world was all for her, not needing to be shared.
I didn’t hide in the closet, but I do remember various nooks and crannies of my childhood home that served as places of refuge, and fantasy. The underside of the dining room table, once the top was covered with two tablecloths, clothes-pinned together to block out all outside views, became a submarine. Under the cellar steps was a hidden bunker, where the Nazi troops could not find me. The narrow alleyway separating our garage from the neighbor’s garage was a magical portal, where almost anything could happen. (Though in truth, nothing much ever did.)
None of these hiding places compared to the garage, itself. For some reason, my family had two garages behind our house on Ninth Street, though we had just one car. It meant less yard, no chance of four bases for a game of whiffle ball, but I didn’t mind, because the smaller, empty garage became kid territory, and by the time I was seven or so, my older sisters had lost all interest, and it was all mine. (The words “Katie Keene Club” were painted on the inside wall to prove that Susan and Sally once “owned” the place, but I just ignored that. (I wonder if the painted words are still there, or if anyone remembers Katie Keene comic books anymore?)
During the day, the garage was headquarters and hide-out for me and my friends when we waged war on the boys of Tenth Street. Eventually, it became our overnight cabin, for sleep-overs and midnight adventures. But best of all, it became a place I could disappear, and be lost to the world. For some reason, there was an old desk in the garage, so it became my office, for important business activities like sorting baseball cards, gluing popsicle sticks, and taking apart broken radios to see what was inside.
I’ve heard that some kids would disappear up in the backyard tree, while others squeezed into a solitary cavern behind the living room sofa or crawled into an empty cabinet in the basement. I’ve heard all kinds of stories along these lines, but the one through-line is that we needed to be alone, just for a short while, or sometimes all day.
So where was your escape hatch? Where did you hide when the world was too loud, too busy, or too crowded? Where did you go to be alone?
Let us see, feel, smell, and touch the place, and let us see you at age five or ten, and what you did there