Today, Jack (the eighth grader I tutor in math) and I were talking about snow at school. Maybe that's a weird topic, but he was telling me about how they aren't even allowed to PICK IT UP during recess and I was like, "WHAT? THEN HOW DO YOU BUILD FORTS?"
When I was in school and we still had recess, there were certain activities that went on in the snow. There would be a group building snowmen, some doing snow angels, others using the playground, some attempting to use the basketball court and then completely wiping out as they slid over a hidden patch of ice, etc.
Looking back, it was probably really funny to watch; all of us toddling around in our snow pants, with our huge puffy coats, hats, mittens, and scarves. All of us like little Ralphies screaming that we can't put our arms down.
I was part of another group. The serious group. The future-leaders-of-our-generation group. The hardworking elites that refused to allow devastating setbacks and what others might call insurmountable odds hinder us in our slow trek to greatness.
We were the group that built forts.
We were eleven-year-old architects, brilliant and misunderstood, spending our precious hours of outdoor time painstakingly packing walls, digging tunnels, smoothing out floors. It was our life's work, those forts. Though, we didn't see them as forts. To us, they were architectural feats that rivaled the Pyramids of Gaza, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Empire State Building.
We weren't construction workers. We were artists.
The thing about fort builders is that we weren't in it for the money or the fame. We didn't do it for the looks on the third graders faces as they came upon the wonder that was our added tower spires. It wasn't about the glory.
It was about stepping back after the teacher's whistle blew and wiping the sweat from your brow as you took in everything you had accomplished in 25 short minutes. It was about honor.
The other thing about fort builders is that we were never truly done. Like all visionaries, we strove to be better everyday. There was always more to be done. Another door to be built. Another tunnel to be dug. More blueprints to review, because hey, if we put the hottub in the main structure, the mini-fridge would have to be exiled to sub-basement B and that just would not do.
We could never enjoy our successes because we were constantly busy fighting for more. Another day, a new challenge. If we let down our guard, disaster could strike.
One such disaster was the potential destruction of our masterpieces at the hands of those who could've one day been our friends, but instead were branded our enemies. Those who wished trample our kingdom and lay waste to our villages.
We called them The Destroyers.
They were those from the younger grades whose recesses were at odds with ours, making it possible for them to strike when we were vulnerable and unable to defend ourselves. We would arrive the next day to find the igloo addition we had made the day before in ruins.
We quickly realized that we needed a defense system.
We called them The Soldiers.
They were a team of handpicked younger kids that we bribed into safeguarding our castles. We would stock snowballs for them in a side room, sometimes burying chocolate or other candy in what we called 'the freezer bank' to keep them loyal. And it worked. With them under our employ we once again were able to focus all of our mental capacity on our work.
It was a beautiful system and it lasted until the very last snow melt.
Those snow forts were our legacy and will live on in our memories forever.