Launching into the much easier imperfect tense after a devestating attempt on the preterite the month before, my Spanish 102 class laughed out loud when I answered the professor's question, "¿Qué cosas te gustaban hacer en tu joventud? ("What things did you like to do in your childhood?") I quickly responded (in Spanish) that I used to climb trees.
Now, the composition of our intimate class of 7 is this: everyone else is 20 yrs old (Oh, I forgot the 17 yr old) and I am not. They could all be my children. They like to appear very savey and sophisticated. They all had big plans for Spring Break and alcohol, and frequently go to Las Vegas with boyfriends - rolling their eyes that their parents are not happy about that - yet they fully belly-laughed when I said I liked to climb trees as a kid.
There's a lot to be said for gaining the perspective of a handy branch. I could see into Mrs. Leonard's backyard, and if I was especially daring, I could see Butch's house from my English Walnut perch. It was important to mentally size-up a tree where ever you were, as it could offer a potential day's climbing.
Seeing what was on top of our own roof was really cool, for some reason. The tennis balls and frisbees that were stranded up there stayed bleaching in the sun until the fall clean-up day when we could go on the roof with Papa and rake all the leaves off into a huge pile next to the garage. One by one he threw us off onto a trampoline. It was deliciously dangerous and the reckless bounce was so worth it. Even the kid next door - jealously watching us - was invited up and given a rake and an e-ticket dismount.
Being in squirrel and crow territory also had its merits. We were kin with the wild things. Imbedded in a leavy canopy we could spy on mom as she hung clothes on the line or supress laughter until we were dizzy from oxygen deprivation when she called for us and we didn't answer, or better yet, toss green walnuts down onto our little brothers and make them cry. It was a great irony when my older brother broke his arm, it wasn't during one of our aggressive tree-climbing expeditions, but while showing off for my mom & me on the swing set!
My class just thinks of me as the funny old lady. I think they must have suffered a very shallow childhood. Each one of them said they only played nintendo when they were little, and certainly never helped their dad with the yard work. Too bad.
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