The Bamboo Forest

By February 17, 2015Reflections/Essays

“A child’s world made of bamboo”   Irene Honeycutt

You kept me up late last night, Irene, reading your poem about your little hut, and remembering.

Strange, isn’t it, how one small word can conjure up so much? I read “bamboo” and suddenly a whole street came alive to me again.

There was a bamboo forest on Coltsgate Road where many years ago we proudly built our old brick two-story house. It is well paved now, a cut-through from SouthPark lined with rows of fine new offices for businesses and doctors. Then it was a graveled road just half a dozen houses long, with lots of mysterious and secret places for the children to play.

Sometimes they crossed the road to explore the bamboo forest, always furtively, hoping they would not be seen and confronted by Mrs. Porter and her vaunted and unpredictable temper. She owned not only the bamboo forest but all the rest of the street.

At the dead end, barely visible, was a path through old woods and unused fields leading to the ruins of what we came to call the “burned out house.” From it we toted a load of charred and blackened boards to make a tree house.

Behind us was a short cut our daughter took in the mornings, round a fence, past the cottage of a deaf and mute woman, under the high taut Duke power lines, to the old Sharon School.

A black top strip was added, a safe place to ride a bike. Once I watched our younger son, riding for the first time without training wheels, disappear around a bend. I waited, my heart’s breath held, for the sound of the almost certain crash. It never came.

Czar came one day, a bounding Golden Retriever puppy, into the arms of his new young owner, just back from heart surgery at Duke. Czar was there too the bitter cold November night when the crowds came, lining the sidewalk for hours, to pay their last respects to our older son. Perhaps Czar was wondering where his young master was. Two years later to the week he too died, wandering to the end of the street and hit by a car

I sat on the curb at the end of that same street with our younger son and watched them bulldoze a farm into a parking lot to put up a mall. Later still they leveled our house to make space for income producing buildings.

Our daughter drove down the road and said forlornly, “It makes me sad. My swing set is gone. My house. The school I used to walk to. There’s nothing left to remember or show to my own children now.”

So much is gone.

You kept me up late, Irene, last night. You also woke me early this morning. When day came my first thought again was of the bamboo forest, wondering what had happened to it.

After breakfast I drove to the cleaners, with Wrangler my cattle dog in the back. Three blocks away I made a detour, turning in behind the church that looks like a ski run. On its far and less pretentious side, behind a small brick building, I pulled up by a collection of old barbecue ovens.

Beyond the rusted metal was the bamboo forest. Much larger than I had remembered. Hundreds and hundreds of poles, some upright, some bowing over. A forgotten grotto, hidden from the busy life of Charlotte’s most renowned commercial center.

While Wrangler nosed about the new territory I stood a while, listening, almost hearing, the voices of children threading their way through the tall, slim shapes.

There was one broken shaft of bamboo on the ground. I picked it up, put it in the back of the car, and drove to the cleaners.

When we got home Wrangler was chewing on it contentedly.

Leighton Ford
September 2008

 

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