Last Child in the Woods

20120606-204338.jpgWhen I was younger, I lived in the suburbs of Long Island. Our days were spent at school and our after school time was spent outside. I got involved in sports at the age of 4 when I started tee ball and soccer. After my first season of tee ball, I decided it wasn’t for me. I stuck with soccer and played all year round-the fall and spring on teams, winter in the indoor league, and then summer just for fun until it was time to start training for tryouts. If I wasn’t at school or at the park playing, I spent hours in front of my house training with my brothers. On hot days, I enjoyed resting under the maple tree that split up my yard with my next door neighbor. It was the only tree near our yard and it happened to be our first base for kickball. (Our mailbox was home plate, the telephone pole was second, and the edge of our driveway was third.) We spent plenty of summers playing kickball with either my parents, cousins, or the neighborhood kids. In the suburbs, finding friends to play with was extremely easy. Everyday in our three block radius we had at least 10 kids to play with and teams were made quickly for any sport. We all had pools so we took turns with whose house we were going to swim at. I also spent hours playing basketball with the hoop we had right in front of the house by the telephone pole. My neighbor across the street had four wheelers and dirt bikes for when they went to Upstate NY, but he would take me every now and again through the streets even though it was illegal.
I remember when my old next door neighbors moved and the new neighbors cut down the maple tree. I was surprised about how much that devastated me. It took away a lot of shade and it felt as though they took away something from my childhood. The only benefit was the fact that there was going to be a lot less leaves to rake during the fall.
As a kid, my favorite activity was riding my bike around the neighborhood. I wish I had never stopped. I would leave my house and I would ride around my neighborhood from early morning until after dark. In the summers, my parents hardly had to drive us anywhere. I could make it to my cousins’ house, my friends’ house, or any parks around town on my own. There were times I rode my bike to stores to buy CDs or clothes or supermarkets for lunch. It felt like I was on my own time throughout the summers- I just had to make sure I was back for dinner. Summer was my favorite time for dinner with the family because we tried to make sure we were outside on the deck almost every night. Summers were fun because at night the bats would fly out of the trees and we would run around catching lightning bugs.

Sometimes we would hang out at the park and go into the woods. It felt as though it was dangerous and unfamiliar. Come to think of it, we wouldn’t really tell our parents that we went into the woods. The trails were well treaded, but they led to bonfire sites and forts with tires, TVs, condoms, needles, baggies, etc.
My mom had me in girl scouts and it mainly consisted of crafts inside the school cafeteria. The one trip I remember taking was a trip to the local gardening store that had a petting zoo in the back. The petting zoo consisted of probably three animals at the most that I was able to hand feed. I never went camping in the four years I did girl scouts, but I went numerous times with my mom and brothers through the boy scouts.
What my town lacked in nature, my parents tried to make up for in vacations. We took an annual vacation to the Catskill Mountains for camping with 20 of our closest family members. It was fun hiking through the woods and exploring.

20120606-210702.jpgIt was completely different from anything we did on Long Island and it was exciting to see the different bears, birds, deer, fish, etc.

20120606-210441.jpg It provided us with a more expansive natural environment. However, when I moved to Florida it was a culture shock since my first friend was from Arcadia and lived on a farm. She showed me pictures of her family and I realized how different our family photo albums were. Not only were her pictures of bull riding and barrel racing, she had pictures of the family hunting and preparing deer to eat. I realized although I’ve gone camping, I’ve never hunted for my own food or even experienced anything like that before.

It’s funny to me that I’m very familiar with flat land like Long Island and Florida and if it wasn’t for traveling I wouldn’t have known anything else. It surprised me how excited I was recently to drive through the mountains and trees in the Fall while driving through upstate NY to get to Niagara Falls. It was equally exciting to experience the snow topped mountains in Colorado. Growing up in the suburbs, I feel as though I had a limited view of nature, but I was always outside. Not until moving to Florida, did I realize how secluded from wildlife I was. I think it’s the change of environment that made me see how nature comes to us in many different ways.

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