Judge and Mrs. Max Dice’s historic home stood on the corner of Highland and Leesburg avenues. Beside it was a picturesque woods that ran parallel to Leesburg Avenue and extended behind some eight or 10 houses, to the area where the golf course turned and faced the avenue. To us neighborhood kids, it was always affectionately known as the “the Woods” and we spent countless hours back there. It was in full view of our mothers, who had only to step to the back of their yards to see what we were up to or to call us to lunch.
Access to our hallowed place was via a stile. If the judge happened to be pasturing a cow back there, we learned the hard way to be careful of where we stepped…
Ancient oaks and walnut trees shaded the entire location and violets grew in profusion everywhere. We often picked bouquets to take home to our mothers.
“The Woods” was a safe place for children to grow and nurture dreams for the future. Somewhere WWII was raging and most of us had relatives fighting in it for our freedom but there—there in that hallowed spot, was peace.
One day, one of the older girls decided to stage a play with a huge stump serving as a stage. She gave out our parts and soon, one tot was crying and headed for home. When her mother finally calmed her down, she confessed, “She wants me to play the part of Ginger Rogers and I d-don’ wanna be no b-boy!” Her mother quickly explained that Miss Ginger Rogers was a famous dancer and Hollywood actress. Then she washed her child’s face, gave her a glass of milk and a cookie, hugged her and sent her back to “show-biz.”
As the years went by and we entered our teens, “The Woods” was a place to go to sort out our “growing problems” away from familial interference. We reasoned that countless years before we sought the refuge of our hallowed place, Indian children and probably the children of early settlers had found solace there for their problems on the very ground where we now stood.
None of us who spent time there ever felt really alone because birds sang and lively squirrels scampered in and around us. We felt in communion with all of them and tamed them.
As Father Time called us away, we went out into the big world to find our new lives. “The Woods” would always have a special place in our memories.
It was the first place I wanted to visit after my own family and I returned to our hometown. I was shocked and saddened to find in its place, a new street lined with fashionable homes, with few of the old trees remaining..I had to remind myself that time moves on and that, of course, means changes. The new development was surely a credit to our town.
As I stood on the new street, I was reminded of the times during the war when, if there were no golfers out on the golf course, we’d unlock the big gate separating “The Woods” from the shelter house and nearby green. Girls who had brought their dolls along played “house” in the little wooden building, while others of us stretched out on the green which was always carefully mowed and smelled delightfully. We watched clouds sailing past overhead or built sand castles in the sand trap. We thought life couldn’t get any better.
We all wanted time to stand still but it was not meant to. We were supposed to grow up and move on and we did.
“The Woods” will live forever in our hearts, along with the messages of life whispered among the branches, sighing for ancient times long gone.