September 2015

Dear Families,

When we went to visit
the secret hideaway, we had to hold on to a rope to descend the ravine, and
beams of light pierced the shade intermittently …

Did you have a secret place growing up? A spot that only you
and a friend knew about? A place to read, to play? Perhaps a fort, a place to
“escape”? There is a tire swing at the center of my daughter’s secret spot
where we vacation in the summer. Bella created her sanctuary with her close
friend Rhiannon. They discovered it this summer. It’s hidden in plain sight,
yet it has all the makings of a magical hiding place: a creek, vines, places to
climb, shade, and trees, of course.

One day Bella returned home from her refuge covered in mud.
“Where have you been?” I asked, aghast.

“Our secret spot,” Bella responded. “I found an old tire
while exploring. I dug it out and rolled it back to our place. We are going to
make a swing out of it.”

By the looks of Bella standing there with mud-caked hair,
ruined shoes, and an ear-to-ear grin, that tire must have been buried deep in
the banks of the creek. “It was awesome!” She beamed. Of that statement, I had
no doubt.

Erin and I invited ourselves to visit the secret spot for
safety reasons. Bella had come home late for dinner one night, and we realized
we did not know where to find her. She arrived unharmed and with a smile, but the
“secret” of the secret spot was over as far as her parents were concerned. We
demanded to see it, just in case we ever needed to find her. When we went to visit,
we had to hold on to a rope to descend the ravine, and beams of light pierced
the shade intermittently. At the bottom were two hammocks strung side by side.
If the surrounding trees could talk, I am certain they would reveal incredible
insight into the trials and tribulations their tenants had navigating this
crazy world called middle school.

I then noticed the tire swing and gasped. As I looked at the
rope tied with care to an overhanging limb easily thirty feet above us, I asked
Bella, “How did that rope get tied up there?”

Too proud and naïve to understand that the truth might have
been too hard for her parents, Bella answered, “I did it all by myself. I had
the rope around my neck, and I inched out and somehow got it tied around the branch.
Isn’t it awesome!”

I reprimanded her. As a parent, I couldn’t let it go. Her face
fell as I explained all that could have gone wrong if she had slipped. Although
chastened, her eyes still had a hint of self-satisfaction. I must admit, I was
proud of her as well. As Erin and I climbed out of the ravine, there was one
thing that was certain. In the future these two girls may live miles apart
raising families of their own, but they will always remember their childhood, secret
retreat and the bond formed swinging and talking about life. If they are really
lucky, their daughters will be best friends and discover a “secret spot” of
their own one summer.

My youngest, Cade, and her mother have a secret spot on
Scarlet Gate. I’m not invited. It’s theirs. Don’t worry. I’m not bitter about
not being invited. Alex and Bella aren’t either. They created it one day after
Erin shared with Cade that she had a secret spot when she was a kid. She would take
along a lemonade and her favorite book. Her father created it for her, and it,
also, was their secret. My wife was the youngest, just like Cade. She needed a sanctuary
to get away from those pesky older siblings who thought their little sister was
“annoying.” Cade entreated, “Can we make a place like that, Mama?” They snuck
away one beautiful afternoon in the spring and created their spot. Although I
haven’t seen it, I have been told that it’s the perfect place to sit and “play
restaurant,” whatever that means. Did I mention that I am not invited? Don’t worry,
I’m not bitter about it. I am really just fine.

Joking aside, I have decided that secret spots are important
to a child’s development and growth. Like the land of Narnia tucked away in the
back of the wardrobe, they’re places of adventure and creativity.

Our son, Alex, has built more forts in the woods with his
friends than I can count. Literally and figuratively, these retreats give
children the opportunity to create a space of their own. Sometimes I find my
mind wandering off during a difficult day. I
am my eight-year-old self, tucked away in a cedar closet in the attic of my
childhood home. Its distinct smell fills my nose, and my best friend Preston
and I are dressed in my father’s old army uniforms playing.
Oh, to escape
to those good old days again, even if only for a brief moment of reverie.

With gratitude for a job I love,

Charles D. Baldecchi

Head of School




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