Happy were the days that I spent at 110 Bratton Road. Nestled in the tiny town of Fair Play, we lived in a small stone house on the corner with an old barn out back, acres of field and a huge, sap covered tire swing my daddy hung from the old pine beside the chicken coop.
The size of the shrubs and trees spoke of the property’s age. Old boxwood bushes and pink Crepe Myrtles lined the house and back yard. There was a huge Camellia bush behind the house that dropped its pink blossoms when the weather turned cold enough. The pecan trees all around the house provided us with much entertainment the fall that brought a bumper crop. My daddy stood on the roof of the house and threw or kicked a soccer ball into the loaded trees. My brothers ran around under the trees gathering the harvest, wearing baseball helmets to protect their heads from the nuts raining to the ground. Mom and I helped too. All the five-gallon buckets we could find were filled to the brim and then some.
My favorite tree was the old Magnolia in the backyard. Its velvety blooms smell like summer. I’d climb high in its branches and survey the world as far as my eyes could reach. Once I carved my initials in the trunk close to the top.
Growing up with three brothers next to me meant I had little choice of being somewhat of a tomboy. My little sister showed up when I was almost seven, but even then, it took a few years before we could play together much. I don’t remember playing with dolls or dressing up in Mom’s high heels. But I do remember hours of time spent outside, roaming the back fields, and tasting the salt blocks put out for the cows.
My mama loved to read, and somehow she passed on that love to all of her children. We made regular trips to the library where we loaded up on books. The house was silent for hours afterward. Looking back I understand that those silent moments were just as much a respite for her as they were a delight for our eager, young minds.
As my fascination grew with these worlds of which I read, my imagination grew as well. As a result I would make up characters and stories in my head. Many times the heroine in my fantasies looked a lot like me. Sometimes I wrote them down, but more often I would tell the stories, talking aloud to myself and the story characters while I hung out the laundry for Mom or walked the fields looking for summer-ripe blackberries.
Many people would perhaps name the childhood that I have described idyllic. And maybe it was. Looking back now I understand that the safe environment of a two-parent home with people who never stopped loving me is a gift I did nothing to deserve. It seems the number of people who experience those things grows fewer with the passing of time.
My imagination is alive and well to this day, and I am grateful. Imagination and creativity go hand in hand. Surely the imprint of both is on our hearts because of the imagination and creativity of our Creator God. You have only to look around at creation and even humans to understand that his imagination is alive and well too.
What would it be like to step back into those care-free days, even for a moment? There are moments when I long for the unhurried, unworried pace of my ten-year-old life. Still, I am learning that “maybe it’s a better thing… to be more than merely innocent, but to be broken and redeemed by love” (A. Peterson).
Maybe it’s a better thing.