One of my favorite childhood memories is singing “Blueberry Hill” with my friend Diana on a little rise (it couldn’t be called a hill!) on the Forest Service Ranger Station in Bly, Oregon where we lived as pre-schoolers.
Our fathers both worked for the Forest Service and our families lived in adjacent stone houses. A stonewall lined the front of the compound, a grove of trees graced the middle of the property, and an old lookout tower stood at the far end.
I, along with my older sisters and brother and the other kids who lived on the ranger station definitely experienced a free-range childhood. We played outside all day long whenever we could, only coming in for meals. We played Island of the Blue Dolphin, World War II, spaceship, and lots of other “games.” Our family didn’t have a TV so my siblings and I would either sneak over to the house of a family that did or else, on stormy days, we would work on projects or we would read. It was an absolutely idyllic childhood. I learned to both use my imagination and to enter into the imaginations of others in a cooperative effort.
I was aware and fond of the parents of our friends on the ranger station, but my siblings and the other kids were my world. I don’t remember knowing or caring what the adults’ jobs were or their political beliefs or their religions. We just wanted to play and be left alone as much as possible.
I thought of those days of childhood as I wrote my latest novel, Amish Promises. In the story, a military family moves next door to an Amish family. The grownups all have concerns about each other and conflicts develop, but the children immediately bond and just want to be allowed to play in their imaginary world along the creek between the two houses.
Children live in the moment and don’t dwell on differences between each other like adults do—nor do they realize the impact those friendships will have throughout their lives. All these years later, Diana and I are still close friends and although we live 300 miles apart, we stay in touch online and see each other when we can.
I’m very grateful for the experiences and friends from my childhood, and I’d love to hear about yours! Leave a comment below to win a copy of Amish Promises. Tell me where you grew up, about your siblings, or about one of your friends—or anything else you’d like to share.
Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of twenty novels. She enjoys Church history, Shakespeare, and traveling. Leslie and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children and three cats. Visit her at www.lesliegould.com.
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