In The Secret Place, behind the row of azalea bushes next to the property line fence and under the shade of the magnolia tree, anything can happen. Stuffed animals, favorite babies, small blankets, and toy food have all made their way outside to The Secret place, carried there by tiny dirty hands. Today the owners of The Secret Place are on a rescue mission. They bravely come out from behind the azalea bushes to save animals from the “dangerous giant storm that is going around the world”. Each time one leaves to attempt a rescue, they hug each other. As one runs off barefoot through the grass, the other yells, “Be careful sister!”
The owners have invited me to join them for a picnic in The Secret Place. I’m too big to easily fit, so I sit on the side where I can still be close to them. “Mama, hold my baby. She’s crying,” says the little one as she gently hands over her baby, her blue eyes looking at me from under tangled blond curls. As I shush the baby, I look around at the tiny world they’ve created. The animals are lined neatly on a fleece blanket. The fence and the bushes have become part of the world, used as a place to hang a bag or help a baby sit upright. The owners are sitting on another blanket tearing apart magnolia leaves and putting the pieces into a wooden bowl. They call this cooking. The sleeping animals will have a feast when they wake.
They stay in The Secret Place for hours. Sometimes they come in and ask for a snack, which they bring back out to eat. As the sun begins to fall, the owners give up The Secret Place. They come back into reality, sleepy, satisfied, dirty from a day’s work, and hungry. I smile, knowing that today has been a magical day for them, the owners of The Secret Place, my daughters. It was a magic only they could make.
It is a magic that could have been easily missed had my calendar been full. I can’t buy it for them. I can’t take them there in a car. I can’t create it. It can’t be manufactured. It can’t be found in an app or on TV. Tomorrow we have plans, and the day after The Secret Place may not call to them. But a new adventure awaits the next time they choose to visit. It can only be found and created in their imaginations. This is the magic of childhood.