by Deborah Flusberg, Newton
Pedal one, pedal two . . . slow and even now . . . take in the familiar scents of summer . . . I bicycle with my eyes almost closed, so well known to me are the streets. Up Comm Ave. and down again, around Bullough's Pond, past the high school, through the little pathways, my legs know which way to take me. The surroundings haven't changed much since that first summer I lived in Newton back in A78, when the lazy, endless days overlapped one another and the days seemed like weeks and the weeks like months. It was not long before our tenth floor Manhattan apartment faded out of my seven-year-old memory, and I became accustomed to the ways of the country (even though Newton is, of course, a city, as New Englanders never fail to point out). It was a summer of discovery: I learned to ride a bicycle freely, without having to maneuver around the pedestrians on the wide sidewalk of Amsterdam Avenue; I discovered that in summertime, you shouldn't take off your shoes when you go inside, because you'll probably go back out in a few minutes; most importantly, I learned how to say "talk" and "dog" instead of "toowk" and "doowg."
But the most memorable part of the summer, the part that I see clearly whenever I smell damp pine needles or hear the sound of loose gravel being kicked, is the fort. Now only a pile of rubble and damp soil between two garages, the fort was, for that one summer, our mystical retreat. I can still see Tommy smoking on a chocolate cigarette, his sister Susie sitting in the tree chomping on a piece of gum, while the rest of us leaned against the stone wall of my parents' garage and discussed our plans for the day.
So what if we had a few mishaps? It wasn't our fault that a rusty nail happened to be sticking up when my mother came out one evening, wearing sandals, to call me in for supper. And the old piece of wood we found lying a few blocks away near a finished construction site seemed like a perfect addition to our collection of playground objects: we would now have a slide to complement the old tire swing. My poor three year-old brother, the guinea pig, probably still has some of those splinters even now, at age fourteen, but we surely could not have anticipated that he would slide down on his belly. And the boy from next door, Doron, probably still has that bump on his head from when he and the tire swing crashed into the tree; I would ask him, but I haven't seen him in years. His sister Michal and I tried to stay out of trouble, but we, too, got scratched and bruised from the old wire net lying on the secret path between the fort and my backyard.
But what was there to complain about? The special feeling of being part of a club, of sitting on the ground or on a high tree branch and feeling important, was enough to make us keep coming back to the fort even when the days of summer were coming to an end and the word "school" loomed ominously ahead of us.
Fall arrived; colored leaves covered the bottom of the fort, and the rain pattered down, making the leaves soggy. Then came winter, and the fort began to look more and more like any old space between two garages. By the next summer, the fort had lost its magic, and I, then an experienced third grader, could move on to bigger and better things. But whenever I go back to that street, as long as the smell and the sounds of summer are in the air, it is as if no time has passed and I am back in my fort.n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.