Revisiting imaginary escapes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The rain filtering through the trees hitting my roof makes a sound that reminds me of popcorn popping. There is a pinging quality to it as it bounces off the metal pipe that serves as an exhaust for my range hood.

Ping, ping, ping it sings.

“Rain, rain go away,” I answer.

It is yet another wet day with more showers and even the possibility of frozen stuff by week’s end. Most of the time I like rainy days, they allow me to just sit a while, but lately I’m hungry for sunshine.

Still these days do invite me to sink into my head and this morning it’s a memory that bobs to the surface. Funny the stuff stored in our memory banks. The ping of the rain took me back to the hall in my childhood home.

It is a cloudy, damp afternoon and we kids have just come in from school or at least those of us old enough for school arrive to greet the younger ones.

The hall is dark; no light comes in from windows in the adjoining rooms. We sit on the steps fussing about the rainy weather that’s forcing us inside instead of allowing us to run off our pent-up energy outside. Hearing our complaints, Mother enters with bed sheets in her hands and unfolds them without a word.

Then she begins attaching them to the rails above our heads and to the ones at the bottom of the stairs creating a roof. Next, she drapes another one over the side of the steps making a cave-like structure into which we eagerly crawl.

Our imaginations kick in. I am in a tent camped at the bottom of a great mountain. Crawling out the backside, I set my sites on climbing to the peak, which is at the top of the steps.

Along the way, I encounter challenges to overcome. The slope is slippery and I fall back having to start over. I hear a wild animal or maybe it’s a cowboy or an Indian (stuff from many genres is mixed up in my fantasies). I jump behind a rock (a bed pillow on the steps) until the danger disappears.

Slowly I climb, gripping the rail to keep myself from tumbling off the mountain. Finally, I reach the summit, standing tall as I celebrate my success.

At last, it’s back to base camp and the safety of the bed-sheet tent. We pause from creating another storyline long enough to enjoy graham crackers spread with peanut butter and glasses of red Kool-aid that mother delivers to her stranded adventurers.

Then we return to our world of mystery at the bottom of the steps. Forgotten is the rain pounding outside. Gone are any complaints about being stuck indoors. We are lost in our heads as we plan, discuss, half argue and dive into the story we’ve written about what’s happening in the magic place that was once our hallway.

I don’t know how long we play this way. Maybe it is 30 minutes, or perhaps hours. At some point Mother calls to tell us the sun is out. There is a rush of tangled arms and legs falling through the sheets half pulling them down.

I remember standing alone in the hall staring at our tent that now looked like what it was, a couple of sheets strung through the stairs. The mountain is only a set of steps leading to the upstairs bedrooms. The mysterious land surrounding our camp is once more the hallway in our house.

For a second, a tiny moment, I almost wish for the rain to return so I can slip back into that dark tent world Mother made for us – but the moment passes. And, I rush out to join the others in the sunshine ready for the adventure that drips from rain-soaked trees, which until dark become a jungle filled with monkeys and snakes and elephants and painted natives …