13 February 2012

Story Settings From My Childhood

by Diane Carlisle


Here is a fun writing assignment. Think about some of the more interesting places you’ve experienced during your childhood. How would you describe those places today?

Here are three of mine:

Bamboo Hill was a small wooded lot about two blocks away from where we lived. We only climbed about one third of the hill, and nobody ever went past a certain, well-known log. It was 6 feet long and hollowed out from years of decay and rot.

Every tree throughout this lot was a bamboo tree, so we never really knew from where the log came, it was just there, and sort of as a reminder we didn't belong and probably shouldn't climb any further up the hill.


I remember climbing the hill once and I thought I'd used the same path we always used, but on this one day, I didn't stumble upon the old decaying log. Someone had moved it. I started to question myself and wondered had I already passed it? I panicked as soon as I questioned myself because if I did pass that log, then I was further than I should have been.

When seven years old, afraid, and in an unfamiliar place, what typically happens? You hear noises. Small twigs breaking, leaves crunching all around you. Someone calling your name, "Diane...." or was it a whisper? To tell it now, it was my mom calling me in for dinner.

The Stone Statue Museum was a place we used to visit after school. We loved playing there because it was the perfect place for playing hide and seek. The stone statues were all different sizes of fat people with bald heads who sat cross-legged with big smiles on their faces. Other statues were of cats with long necks. Really long necks!

I remember large vases and stones with saucers next to them, at times filled with water, days after a good rain. During hot summer days, the plates always stank of rot and decay. There were also flowers, new and old.

My favorite spot to hide when my sister and I played was within this one slab of concrete. I'd climb in and when I'd scoot back far enough, the darkness would hide me, but I could see anyone who wandered by. Once they passed, I'd count to twenty, then climb out and run to the base!

A year later we found out it was an old cemetery. Someone told my mother we'd been disturbing the peace over there and so she lectured us about disrespecting dead people. That's when I discovered I'd been hiding in a tomb every time I crouched inside my favorite hiding spot. There's no telling what had been inside that large square stone with me, and I try not to think about it so much. Except here, to tell you about it.

The Fish Market is where I used to watch the Asian guy behind the plastic wall prepare fish like you'd watch an Italian dude toss pizza crust in the air and spin it around. Scaling the fish, skinning it and then removing the bone, it was all so artistic and I'd literally be in a trance.

I recall they had this huge barrel with white stuff in it. I didn't know what the white stuff was, but it had the texture of flour. I'd always bury my hands in it because it was so fluffy and soft. Mom would fuss at me while wiping my hands off. One day I stuck my hand in there and fluffed up a giant cockroach. That sort of broke me from sticking my hands in soft fluffy stuff.

Anyway, do you have some childhood places that you remember? Anything you'd like to use as settings for your works in progress?

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