I often have trouble sleeping the night before a trip and often quit tossing and turning and come out to the computer to write. Aren’t you glad – for here’s another installment of Tipi Tales!
Continued from Episode Six: A Blustery Day, Part 2
I was the first child to celebrate their birthday on the homestead. I remember feeling extra special and distinctly privileged that day, though the celebration was not memorable in itself. We had been there just over 2 weeks when my 13th birthday came, and we were still in the survival mode. I know that each meal was still a herculean task for my mother to accomplish in our primitive living conditions, and everyone in the family was too consumed with adjusting to our new life to be able to give proper attention to a birthday. There was no special meal that I can remember, much less a birthday cake. Yet I retain the memory of the day feeling very special indeed, for two main reasons…
First, my sole gift from my parents: my very own, leather-bound, Thompson Chain Reference, King James Version Bible – just like my mother’s, except a tad smaller in size. This replaced the cover-less, worn out, Sunday School graduation version I’d been using since I was 8, and I felt very grown up indeed to have that heavy, adult-style volume as my very own.
The second gift that set the day apart was the amount of mail I received – 8 pieces! We started out with a P.O. Box in town at the beginning, and Dad only picked up the mail a few times a week. It was simply coincidence that most of them got to me on my birthday, for only two or three we official birthday greetings, most of them being letters from the girlfriends I left behind – Cynthia, Rebecca, Lindsay. But receiving the whole stack actually on the 17th really made the day special!
When Dad got back from town that day and handed out the mail, I hugged my pile to my chest and ran out of the tipi quickly to find the perfect spot to open my treasures. I headed down the ‘lane’ of our newly surveyed and staked out play town (hereafter referred to as “Roxaboxan” – see Barbara Cooney’s children’s book by the same name) and settled under a friendly tree in the corner of my ‘house’. The ground was damp, and I would have been uncomfortable, but for a handy piece of bark placed just so at the base of the tree as a seat cushion. I don’t recall the contents of those letters, but I do remember being thankful for the mild weather so I didn’t have to try to enjoy my letters in the noisy, crowded tipi!
Spring in New York caught us off guard – constantly! One minute bleak skies were spitting ice at you, the next, a warm breeze was puffing by, and you realized that suddenly the trees had got leaves overnight. We learned to never go anywhere without a jacket, for even if it felt lovely when you went out, a spring thundershower or even just a cloud passing in front of the sun would require that extra layer. We marveled at how quickly the weather patterns changed, but wondered if we noticed this phenomenon just because we were more exposed to the weather. Within weeks we had learned basic weather-predicting skills – but more on that later…
The property we had bought, on recommendation from the neighbor, and having only seen it once, was nearly 200 acres on top of a hill in a rural county in Upstate New York, about an 1 1/2 hours North of the Pennsylvania border. It was about 2/3’s meadows, and 1/3 woods, with a small creek crossing one corner. We had chose our campsite at the highest point of our land, where a corner of woods jutted out into a large meadow. The tipi was tucked in a small clearing right inside the tree line, with the flap open to the west – and the prevailing winds.
The view was primarily of the next hill with a peak at the hill beyond it, and a third, grayer and distant, beyond that. All were heavily wooded, with an occasionally field cleared as farm land. The nearest building in the view was a large barn about 5 miles away on the second ridge.
Our whole family loved the outdoors and looked forward to having a whole huge chunk of property to explore and make our own. The house we had moved from in the suburbs had sat in the middle of 1.7 acres – which was a large lot, buy typical subdivision standards! Us children had made memories in each corner and under every tree of our yard. But it was nothing compared to the un-chartered forests and fields of Our Land.
Despite the anticipation of exploring acres and acres we could call our own, it was a few weeks before we ventured outside of the tipi site and the few acres of woods where we gathered firewood for the campsite. There was something unfamiliar and even frightening about all that space! But when we did, we were delighted at the discoveries we made…
Continued in Episode Eight: Exploring the Land