Wrote this story as part of my feature writing class last quarter. The assignment was to describe a place. I choose one from my childhood. Sophie and I called it Bear-hood.


In the shade of two pine trees, we had no rules. We could be anything. I could be a mad scientist who was finally able to reveal her true self as a frog. I had the ability to slow and pause time. My best friend, Sophie, could be a giant ant. She could tell fortunes to mysterious looking life forms that traveled from planet Mars to meet her.

Sophie and I spent hours on top of the dirt-floor that was between the curtain of pine-needles and a tree trunk. We played there because it was hidden from outside view. We played there because in that secret place we reveal our true selves. We were seven year-olds who believed in our fantasies.

Our secret place was just across the street from Sophie’s house. We found it one day, after deciding to pack up a few of Sophie’s belongings and exit the picket fence that bordered the front of her house. We filled a paper grocery bag with a random assortment of things we would naturally want to carry with us: a neon-colored slinky, trolls of all hair dyes, and stuffed animals of sorts. We stopped at her next-door neighbor’s house and collected a few white rocks, known to us as crystals.

We had made it across the street when we pushed our way through pine needles and discovered what would soon be known to us as Bear-hood. We imagined it was a suitable place for bears to go about their time, and thus decided it should be named after them.

Bear-hood was in a space formed by an umbrella of two trees’ worth of pine-needles. There was enough space to walk ten or so paces before having to turn back. The branches were high enough for our short bodies to play under, and could be used as shelves for the items we brought. The pine-needles that coated the exterior of the tree were full. Easily ignored was the sound of the passing cars just on the other side of Bear-hood. We could escape the must-do’s and the do-not’s of the world outside.

Soon, we would bring more items to our secret space. We brought cement blocks for chairs and stuffed animals for extra company. We strung sheets as room dividers and designated a corner as a bathroom.

Everything felt different inside of Bear-hood. Sophie and I could form our own rules. We could converse with a stuffed lion, or pour tea from a rock at our side. We simply had to believe in the things we were thinking. For me this task was simple, especially when Sophie was doing it too. We allowed our imagination to run free inside bear-hood.

We discovered bear-hood a few months after Sophie had moved to my hometown, Santa Barbara, a ritzy suburb in southern California. I was in the second grade and, at first, I was resistant to her becoming my friend.

Sophie required a lot of space. Her voice was deep, and permeated like a base guitar. She talked too much, too loud. It was a daily practice for her name to find itself chalked on the board in our classroom. She grinded her fingernails into her legs that were thick with eczema. She bulldozed her way through her lunch and then went for mine.

Meanwhile, I took up a diminished amount of space. My test scores were average and my voice was soft. Rarely spoken was my name; my friends were few.

Sophie moved into a house that was only a few away from mine. It made sense for our parents that the two of us walk home from school together. Soon after her move, our mothers became friends and our brothers became friends too. It was inevitable that Sophie and I would follow. Sophie was like my sister. She was forced upon me with no option, and with time, I began to love her.

After several weeks of our discovery of Bear-hood, it was ruined. A neighbor rang Sophie’s mom to inform her about an abundance of toys that hung from a tree on the other side of a wall that framed her house. The neighbor also told her that the toys were multiplying. She wanted everything removed. That was the end. We carried the weathered dolls, toys and games back into Sophie’s house.

Years later, when we were in high school, we planned an adventure to go back and visit bear-hood. We had since moved homes and experienced our first tastes of being a teenager. We had not seen bear-hood for years.

We each carried a turkey sandwich and some fruit in a backpack, and rode bikes to the long, lost bear-hood.

What we found felt different from what we had remembered. Spiny, fallen pine bristles covered the dirt floor. We wondered if the trees had lost their density, or maybe if we were the ones who lost our ability to dream.

As we sat eating, we knew the cars that passed could see us sitting cross-legged. They would wonder why two teenagers would want to do such a thing. 

This is Soph and me a little while back. She'll always be like a sister to me.