The play set in our yard was crushed when a couple of trees fell on top of it last month. I think that most people would have looked at the mess smashed into the ground under the tree limbs and would have seen a pile of bent bolts and cracked four by fours, planks, and rails. I saw Teresa’s World on its side.
“Teresa’s World” is the name my then four year-old son gave to what we also called “The Fort.” While my daughter was away at first grade, he developed a strong relationship with an imaginary friend named Teresa. I have no idea where he heard the name. He didn’t personally know of any Teresas and I didn’t know of any Teresas on the shows he watched. During our playtime while his sister was at school, it was my son’s routine to go to the play set with me and Teresa. I would wait to be told where to sit so that I wouldn’t accidentally squish Teresa. Then we would swing, or use the teeter totter, or the trapeze bar. When my son tired of that, he would announce that it was time to go to Teresa’s World.
Teresa was able to instantly transport herself to her world. So, my son and I were tasked with catching up to her at her home. Since my son had recently learned to swing by himself, we had to catch up to Teresa by sitting on the swings and pumping our legs as hard as we could so that we could get into the “atmosphere.” When my son was satisfied that we were high enough he would say, “Three . . . two . . . one . . . blast off!” Then we would launch ourselves from our seats and run over to the fort ladder. While saying, “Jzzhooooom!” we would scurry up as fast as we could. When we got to the top, we were in Teresa’s World. Sometimes Teresa would meet us there; sometimes she wouldn’t. I just waited to be told when she was there so I could politely greet her, because one time I said, “Hi” to her and my son asked who I was talking to, as if I were crazy.
The top of The Fort would usually turn into a space vehicle in Teresa’s World. My son would make me buckle up and he would take us to where the adventure was unfolding. Sometimes it was our job to look for new creatures. Sometimes we fought pirates. Sometimes we drove over aliens trying to attack us. Once when we were on one of our adventures I asked my son where we were. He responded, “Teresa’s World,” (with a DUH! tone). I said I knew that. Then I asked where in relation to our home was Teresa’s World. He told me that it was on a planet far far away. Because it was so far away we had to take the yellow slide sticking out of Teresa’s World and say, “Jzzhooooom!” to get back to Earth. Teresa usually stayed in her world when we returned home. Then we would swing, teeter totter, and use the trapeze bar, without me having to worry about crushing Teresa.
When my daughter would get home from school, we would go inside and have a snack and discuss her day. Then my daughter, son, and I would head back to the play set. My daughter often enjoyed playing in the sandbox under The Fort. She would make elaborate castles and designs in the sand. She would create sculptures that were works of art – until my son smashed them. The three of us spent so much time on the play set playing, creating, and imagining that the happy space it provided felt more like a home to me than our house did.
When the the kids eventually felt they were too old to play with me and invite me into their imaginary worlds, they used the play set to hang out with each other, their dogs, their cats, and their friends – their real ones. But, my kids and I would still swing together on occasion, even when they were in high school, and it provided a great opportunity to talk about their perspective on life.
When I saw Teresa’s World/The Fort crushed under the trees, the wealth of happy times from long ago surfaced. I simply couldn’t cast it aside onto a pile to be discarded. Though my children are now adults living on their own, I felt I needed to revive the space that has given me so many opportunities to be a part of their world over the years. Even if it is never used again once it’s restored, I’m completely fine with it standing as a memorial to some of the most beautiful moments in my life.
I wish every child – and parent – could have their own magical place to make memories.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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