I spent my early childhood outdoors near our home. My days generally were filled with creating villages of sand roads and houses in the corner of an unused gravel bed on our property, or playing hide-and-seek along a steep ridge in a leafy maple wood with my two sisters and many cousins.
The daylight hours were the measure of my life then. I left the house after daybreak and breakfast, so early the cold of the dew would make my feet ache. I returned at dusk after hearing my mother’s voice make the neighborhood echo with my name in the two-note call only she could render. The only breaks in that day were quick races for the toilet or for a lunch sandwich.
“Brown as a berry”, my Grandmother would say when she saw my tanned face and shoulders. I seldom wore more than a pair of shorts all summer, except for church. Shoes were for school, and that was fine by me. I wondered what flavor those brown berries were, since, at six years old, I had only seen red and black ones. Even blueberries were an unknown to me then: they didn’t grow locally and we didn’t buy those kinds of things. I found white berries once, on a bush at my other Grandmother’s house in Hamilton, but she said (or was did my cousin say?) that they would kill me if I ate them, so I didn’t now what they tasted like either. …”