In the dizzying days of Chicago summertime, outdoor play-time became squished by the sun’s ability to seemingly ‘pop-a-squat’ on the midwest. It was here, in the sun soaked summertime of my preteen childhood that we took refuge in the most unlikely place – tents.
Let me back track a bit here and say something about what a tent means to young kid: independence. It’s a room outside our own homes where we can do or say anything we want, be as loud as we want, it becomes a small home of our own. But for us, a tent wasn’t a place to be loud and stomp around, it’s a place of quiet. An eery quiet that laid over all of us like a thick blanket. One moment we’d be screaming, charging to the zipper entrance, but once inside the breeze blowing through the fine mesh and polyester made it hard to shout. Waggling, thick green leaves sounded distant and alien inside. We could build a life in there, it was an escape and had the lure of being outside but not vulnerable.
We put tents in the back, front, and side yards of every kid’s house in our circle of friends. Sleep-overs eventually became camp-outs as the summer’s drew themselves out in long stretches of our adolescence. In the hushed conversations of the open night air we allowed ourselves to be most unguarded behind the shroud of darkness. We admitted fear, love, lust and true friendship. There were crickets between our thoughts for once. Time to settle into ourselves.