It all started one fall morning in the kitchen with the sweet, inquiring face of one little Latham smiling up at me. His request was simple enough. He needed a bed sheet. One he could use outside. I pointed to the linen closet and told him to choose an old one. He ran out with the sheet and I continued washing dishes thinking the kids must be tent-building outside. Ten minutes later, another little Latham shot through the door asking if he too might have an old sheet. Luckily, I hoarded such things, always wanting to be prepared for the next sewing or craft project. Number two ran out, passing the other three in the doorway who had come with similar requests. It seemed strange that they needed so many sheets to build a tent, but I knew better than to ask questions. I granted their request… but started to worry about my sheets.
After finishing the kitchen clean-up some twenty minutes later, I decided it was time to see what fun the little Lathams were having. I walked outside, glad for a reason to sample the day. Just beyond the perimeter of our back yard was a persimmon grove. The persimmon trees were skinny, tall, and spaced closely together. I was zigzagging through these trees, when my ears caught the sound of laughter. I finally spotted the five children and stopped a few yards away to observe what was happening.
I saw that the sheets were hung as hammocks, about four feet from the ground, one for each child. The trees provided posts and the hammocks were placed end to end to form a circle. At first I thought the kids were just enjoying the breezy day, swinging and talking together. Then I realized they were playing some sort of game, moving from hammock to hammock. Apparently, there was some penalty for touching the ground because they did whatever was needed to stay in the hammocks. The bigger Lathams sometimes helped the little ones make it across the gap to the next hammock. And some were even diving, somersaulting into the safety of the next sheet. I decided not to disturb the game, no longer concerned with rescuing my sheets. The group seemed cozy and happy playing and talking together.
I allowed them to leave the hammocks up for months. The game grew and changed and the sheets became permanently knotted on the trees…but who cares about a bunch of old sheets anyway?