Castle Rock. — a personal narrative essay about childhood in New Hampshire I wrote for an English class in college
I was just three when we came — came to that big yellow house. It was number thirty-eight on the north side of meandering Cota Road — Cota Road which paralleled the Sowhegan River in the rocky woods of New Hampshire. There are no woods there any longer. The only woods left are the ones that live on in my mind.
A big yellow house always seems thus when you are a small child trying to “make it” in an adult-sized world. To my poor mother, stranded in the woods with two small children, that house was never big enough . . . the walls were closing in on her. But for a wide-eyed child? There was much fun to be had in a big house in the woods of New Hampshire.
Californians seem to know nothing about the concept of a “real” backyard. Here, one will only find tracts with lots carved out like some giant birthday cake — but there are places in this world where life does not exist on a massive, treeless grid. My backyard in New Hampshire was one of those places.
Some of the most prominent features in that yard were several large granite boulders — which were too large and too heavy to be cleared. The largest of these was four or five feet high, and right at the edge of the woods. Oh those woods! My parents filled my ears with horrific stories of what would happen if my feet ventured even one step beyond the edge of our backyard. I would surely be eaten by some horrible creature or swept away into oblivion by the rushing river. The farthest I could ever go was the big rock — my rock.
That rock was my castle and my refuge, my thinking and my dreaming spot as a small child. I have a sister who was three years my junior — that rock was my tower above her, and my refuge to escape her tagging along behind me. She was just too little to climb up by herself, and our parents did not want her up there for fear she would fall. Grown-ups don’t understand anything important, so my parents had no use for a big rock. It was my rock — for no one else wanted it — and it was my escape from the world. After all, everyone needs a quiet place to think and to dream.
I will never forget the day my rock fortress was finally invaded and overtaken by enemy forces. For nearly four years I had been evading my annoying little sister by scrambling on top of that rock, until one day . . . she was finally able to climb up on her own. An era had ended, and the great kingdom of by backyard, which I had ruled for so long from my castle-rock, had been seemingly overthrown. Life was never the same again.
Soon after my sister mastered the skill of climbing my rock, my family and I were forced to move from our no-longer-so-big yellow house in the rapidly-shrinking woods of Merrimack, New Hampshire, along the shores of the Sowhegan River. I’ve never returned, but I hear tell that the woods are almost gone, and I doubt that the house is any longer yellow. It wouldn’t seem at all big to me now. The jungle gym moved from New Hampshire with us, and was left behind when we later left New Mexico. The swing set we left has likely long since rusted away. But my rock? My rock is still there.
(This was written for a personal narrative essay assignment in an English Class in 2002 — VKS)