When I was a young girl, my favorite playmates were my cousins. There was so many of us who were close to the same age and when we were together it bordered on chaos. Most of us lived close to each other so we had the opportunity to spend time together on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and now and then during the summer. The best place to spend time together was on my grandparents' farm.
When we were really young, games of hide and seek, chase, swinging statues, and circus kept us occupied for hours. One of the worse things that could happen would be "bad weather" which could mean 10 to 13 kids hanging out together in the back room in my grandparents' home. Being told by various aunts and uncles to stop yelling was common place. Being swatted for jumping on the bed with three or four other kids happened, too. Swearing never to tell who had knocked a hole in the wall was expected. And being released from "back room prison" was such a sweet release!
Outside the house was a wonderful world to be explored. You could play army in the orchard and actually run from someone shooting b-bs at your legs.(It was unsafe to shoot above the waist!) You could play circus by walking on the chicken-house. You could slide down the cellar door, but you had to dodge the tin that would cut your leg or arm. We could sit on my grandpa's tractor and push the starter so it would lunge forward and scare the little kids. But best of all, you could play all sorts of things in the big mulberry tree that grew next to the garage.
The mulberry tree was huge. It was easy to climb and its branches provided some wonderful places to sit. It was perfect for swinging on a branch and dropping to the ground below. A tire-swing even hung from it for years. I loved riding in that swing. But my favorite thing to play in the tree was Tarzan.
Tarzan movies, starring Johnny Weismuller, were re-run on Saturday or Sunday afternoons on our local TV station. They were old even then, black and white, grainy, but exciting. I spent a lot of time watching Tarzan save Jane from quicksand, lions, blood-thirsty natives, and other predators. It was true-love between Tarzan and Jane. She was cultured, obviously educated at some British boarding school, a fine English lady, sometimes wore jungle-garb, and had impecible grammar. She could swing on her own, but usually rode with her macho-man, Tarzan, as he swung from vine to vine. Tarzan could do anything and once he somehow made it to New York and rescued some of his jungle homies who had been stolen and shipped to America. Tarzan's best buddy, Cheetah the chimpanzee, was never far behind along with "Boy", the jungle foster child Tarzan and Jane were raising. Tarzan was a giant among men, Jane his lady fair, Cheetah the comedian in the act, and Boy completed the blended family.
Picture a large leafy mulberry tree... One of the older boys got to be Tarzan. One of the younger boys got to be Boy. That left Jane and Cheetah. Ten kids. Jane had to be worldly, educated past the second grade, not afraid to climb to the highest branches, and most of all able to convince the other girls that no one else could swing with ease through the breeze of the trees. Why, of course that was ME, the oldest girl! It also helped that I could convince the rest that they were all Cheetahs--really the soul of the show who had all the fun! No Tarzan flick was complete without the fun from Cheetah! I thought it was a great trade-off.
I loved standing on the trunk of that big ole tree, looking out over the cotton fields which seemed to go on forever. It was thrilling climbing out on a really long limb, feeling my feet dangle over the edge. It was comforting to have a sweaty little monkey cousin lean against me, the two of us savoring the feel of a sunny Sunday afternoon. Even now, as I write these words, it's not so far away. For what seemed like such a short time in my life is such a sweet memory in my heart and mind.
There was never a place so magical or imaginative as that farm. When you are a kid who moves every three or four years, having to start over and over, home isn't always where your bedroom is. Sometimes it's a place that never really changes, where everyone knows you and loves you, and what you remember when you are fifty-one years old and you are trying to fall asleep at night. It's filled with adventure, fun, and security. There's one Tarzan, one Jane, and a whole lot of Cheetahs.
ahhhhhh-AHHHHHHHH-yaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! (Tarzan's call!)