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January 23, 2011 / paperkids

The road that is no more


I’ll never forget the first day we drove out to our house in the country.  I was about 8 years old and the move didn’t have me nearly as rattled as mom.  I didn’t care that much about our house in the suburbs and didn’t really miss the kids in the neighborhood or even being so close to the beach as we had been.  I remember sitting in the back of a pickup with my brother.  It’s funny how that was not a big deal back then.  The dirt roads were mostly shale and there was even a narrow strip of grass growing right down the middle of them.  It seems like we were on that road forever before finally pulling onto the longest driveway I’d ever seen with a small brown house resting at the end of it.  When we hopped out of the back, the grass was so tall, it felt like we were wading through it.   It was the strangest feeling – the smells and the tiny gnats and seeds blustering away.  Dad took the machete and began to hack away at the growth behind the house, while mom looked utterly horrified at the condition of the inside of the house, what with the horrifying kitchen and green shaggy carpets.  It needed  a LOT of tender loving care and she hadn’t really got around to loving it much yet.  Then I could hear dad’s voice, still gruff, but going up with a hint of something else.

“There’s a barn back here!!”

Could it really be that the grass and weeds were so tall that there was a whole barn back there and we didn’t even know it!!?

So this is how the great adventure of exciting childhood exploration came about.   So many old relics to find tucked away in the old barn.  And so many unexplored places out in the woods.

I have been thinking a lot about my childhood lately.   I think it’s probably because Emma is about the same age that I was when I was completely submersed in my imaginary world with the backdrop of our new neighborhood – Hidden Acres. (no joke, that was, and is, the name)

At the age of nine, I would slip off into the woods for hours.  Dad had carved out pathways through the rough palmettos and we would explore all throughout our property and into other territories as well.  Down the dirt road there was a grassy path we could cut through to the small local creek.  The water was dark red I was told from the cypress trees.  Sometimes that small path would have berries growing  and we would stop to eat them.  In the back of our property a little stream of water flowed.  But to me it was like a raging river and I would set up my little people on big sturdy leaves that would ride down the rapids and into the dark, waxy ferns and unknown wooded wilderness.

I was Gayle Gulley.   That was who I was everyday after school.  For hours the narrow dirt roads would be my portals into other worlds and a small clearing would be my home.  I could have  friends and adventures and get older.  All in one day!

“Who are you talking to out there, Sabra?”

My dad’s voice would boom and echo across the open pasture to the place where I circled, talking away to my “friends”.  I would momentarily be yanked away from saving the day.  He wasn’t really curious or worried.   Just checking in…maybe teasing a little.  But my parents NEVER tried to change this behavior even when I continued to do it much later than any “normal” child ever thought to.  Maybe some would have called it inappropriate even, but mom and dad never seemed to care about that kind of thing.

my brother and I in the old barn

So many adventures tucked away somewhere in my mind.  I don’t think I could remember them if I tried.  That dirt road has since been paved over and that stream in the back has dried up.  The paths of those woods have grown over.  I don’t remember when that world began to slip away, but one day it was just gone.  Replaced with other explorations of adolescents and the world of  long phone calls and boyfriends.   A childhood imagination seems to die out like a flame that at one time burns so bright it calls forth all that could be possibly be magical in the world.  I wish I could visit those places again.


Emma in the pasture where I used to play, my parents house in the background








Leave a Comment
  1. Texanna / Jan 23 2011 8:11 pm

    Lovely story, Sabra! I wish I had a creek in my woods 🙂 Isn’t it crazy that all the roads are paved now!? Pine Level looks so different now! I can imagine Hidden Acres does too. I have not been out there since I moved away.

    • paperkids / Jan 23 2011 10:09 pm

      Texanna, Thanks girl! It really has changed so much. It’s hard to believe we used to do all those crazy things like jump into rivers and stuff.

  2. kolembo / Jan 23 2011 9:08 pm

    Oh. My. Lord. I’m going to go back and actually read the post but that picture at the top. The road. Oh. My. Lord. It’s the most evocative picture this week. Very, VERY, nice! Would you mind my using it, if I found the appropriate inspiration?

    It would just be for my wordpress blog, and of couse I would credit you. \\

    Let me know!

    • paperkids / Jan 23 2011 10:08 pm

      Kalembo, Sure! I’d be honored for you to use my photo:) I love your poem, btw.

  3. MSOTS / Jan 23 2011 10:55 pm

    This brings back sweet memories for me, too, Sabra. Wonderful writing!

  4. Aunt Molly / Jan 24 2011 1:04 am

    Thank’s Sabra!

    • paperkids / Jan 24 2011 7:18 am

      Molly, you were such a huge part of my childhood! You were there! 🙂 Love you.

  5. Paola / Jan 24 2011 5:02 am

    I love reading what you write. Please, never stop writing! 🙂
    When I saw your picture, for a moment I thought it was Emma. 🙂


    • paperkids / Jan 24 2011 7:19 am

      Thanks Paola!! I never noticed how red my hair was – so much like Emma!

  6. Candy / Jan 24 2011 5:26 am

    Wow! Your story is so descriptive! I was imagining everything! Thanks for sharing your adventurous and beautiful childhood with us. I’ve told you before that your writing is awesome!! Your should write a series of stories for young readers. Btw, Hayden looks like your brother.

    • paperkids / Jan 24 2011 7:20 am

      My friend, I thought the same thing when I saw that pic again. Hayden looks so much like my brother!! I love that:)

  7. Laura Tacinelli / Jan 24 2011 7:27 pm

    I thought your brother looked like Hayden also! That was a great story Sabra. I think about when I was a kid too – all the things we used to do. Visiting my grandparents in Texas on their farm. Wish I could go back and see it someday.

  8. Katie / Jan 25 2011 5:11 pm

    I’m humbled. You, my sweet friend, are the writer! I was completely enthralled and could feel the magic. More words wouldn’t help here, but just know I loved the trip! (And you haven’t lost it altogether – what a vivid memory you have!)

  9. Nikki / Jan 26 2011 6:21 pm

    Oh wow…brings back memories of slumber parties out there! How fun it was…and we girls deciding to go for a swim in the creek, crossing the currents and meandering thru the woods, and our own self-guided tours through the Outdoor Classroom! Such fun times! I’ll never forget them!

  10. grandma / Jan 27 2011 10:02 pm

    The river and the road have not left you, then, they are alive in you.
    We strive for space; we want places that reflect our pure unadorned selves as part of earth and sky.
    How wonderful that the space, the elbow room can be shared with my beautiful grandchildren.
    I, too, had nature as friend. Groves of Redwoods, a creek across the street, a mountain to hike on, a gnarled grapevine to climb on, all the while hearing the whispers of all.
    Imagination is a blessing, how lovely that you had time to look inward to write and share your words.
    I know Emma sees deeply and shares an imaginative spirit. And Hayden gets to run and explore.
    Blessings, all.
    Love to you.

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