As we approach summer, it’s fun to remember the places we once stole away to in order to immerse ourselves in a good book. For this month’s Q&A, the Paper Lantern Writers answer the question: When you were a kid, where did you go to hide and read?
Linda says: My father built a treehouse in our backyard almond tree. It actually was just a platform less than six feet off the ground, but it made me feel like I was hidden in the tree. I spent a lot of hours reading there. The tree even became part of my novel UNDER THE ALMOND TREES. In the novel, the character inspired by my grandmother says, “As I wait for Eddie to fetch my coat and purse, I walk to the picture window that faces the back yard. In one corner of the yard, I see a sandbox, slide, and swing that my grandchildren have outgrown. Opposite that a darling playhouse sits similarly abandoned. In the corner, one almond tree catapults me into memories of my childhood and of my home in Vacaville. Eddie has built a platform in the tree, and Linda lies there on her stomach, reading her Nancy Drew book. I remember lying in the same position to read in m father’s almond orchard. Past and present fuse in my head.”
Michal says: When I was a kid, I loved riding through fields to see clouds of grasshoppers fly away from my bike tires. A highlight of my youth was riding in the Estes Park Rodeo Parade. I was that kind of kid. I didn’t outgrow it. For Judging Noa: a Fight for Women’s Rights in the Turmoil of the Exodus, I hiked through canyons, slept in the lee of a mountain, and rode a camel in the Negev Desert, where most of the Exodus occurred.
So, it might not surprise you that my favorite place to read when I was in junior high was in the huge lone oak that anchored one end of our school lawn. I was reading Edgar Allen Poe and Sherlock Holmes and I did not want anyone breaking the mystery and spooky moods. I would climb into the tree until I reached the crotch where one thick limb supported my back and I dangled my legs over the other limbs. No one could see me through the leaves and I read undisturbed. High-school drew me away from my tree, but when I returned from spring semester as a college freshman, I was devastated: my oak had been cut down. As I recovered from my loss, I came to understand that life entails change–a difficult lesson.
Edie says: I always wanted to have a hiding spot, but I never seemed to be clever enough to find one to call my own. I tried every place I could imagine to read, even resorting to climbing up the doorframes and balancing at the top, wedging my feet on the other side for stability. It was fine, but never felt “right.” Instead, I followed my mother’s instructions, as I was allowed to stay up and read if I was under the covers. Clever trick, really, since that meant that I would also be depriving myself of oxygen at the same time, theoretically making me sleepy. While I followed her rules to their letter, I always kept a portal of fresh air, so I never managed to get very sleepy.
As for me? (Kathryn) I grew up on a potato farm and cattle ranch in Southeastern Idaho. The oldest of nine children, I usually had a long list of chores to complete everyday, but I do remember occasionally taking off by myself across the sagebrush-covered fields to explore an old pioneer cabin or laying by a stream near the barn and fishing out moss, oblivious to the grandeur of the Grand Tetons in the background. Those would have been ideal (and idyllic) places to read. However, I don’t recall ever taking a book with me outdoors. Instead, when I wanted to read, I hid in plain sight on the little-used front parlor sofa or stayed up after bedtime reading under the covers with a flashlight. I still love to read in bed before going to sleep. No need for a flashlight now, though.
How about you? Where did you steal away to read when you were a child?
Kathryn Pritchett writes about strong women forged in the American West. To interact with her and the other Paper Lantern Writers, join us in our Facebook group SHINE, on Instagram, and Twitter.