When I tell people I grew up in Bedford, now home to Martha Stewart and Glenn Close, they think I must have had silver spoons in my mouth and horses grazing outside, but it really wasn’t like that at all. In fact, when my parents first moved there in the late 1940s there was a quarry operating nearby that, after it shut down (my mother got it shut down, but that’s another story), was a great source of childhood pleasure. My best friend Robby and I would hike through the woods to get there, spending hours sliding down the huge mounds of gravel, little stones cascading with us all the way to the bottom; then hiking back up again, our feet making holes that disappeared as we climbed.
I didn’t tell my mother about this right away, but when I did (I hadn’t figured out, for some reason, that that would be the end of this pleasure), she made me promise never to do it again, telling Robby’s mother as well, to his great displeasure.
A few years later they took down all the trees in those woods to make way for houses – Bedford Farms, they called it; still call it. That was even better than the quarry, because there were half-built walls to balance on; window openings to leap across and, later, fully formed houses to break into and play.
I had a friend (a girl this time) whose driveway had two trees that met in the middle. We played “Dare,” and one of the scariest dares was to climb one tree and transfer over to the next on two thin limbs, trying, at least on my part (she had perfected the technique, living there as she did), not to look down at the driveway far below.
Needless to say, I’d learned by that time not to tell my mother about either of these two activities – but she might have had an inkling of what I was up to. By the time my brother came along, she seems to have moved to a more effective technique, as he wrote when I asked him his growing-up impression:
I never thought Mom was over protective (even though she tied me to a tree!)
This was true – she had a neat little leash, and figured he could play safely outside around the tree without being constantly supervised and which led, probably, to his not feeling over-protected.
The neighbors were horrified, but she stuck to her guns, as it were. As she did when she got the quarry shut down.