A Private Place

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“A Private Place,” Ensign, Feb. 1976, 61

A Private Place

Preoccupied with my own thoughts I almost missed seeing her as I hurried along the busy street. A lively, tomboyish blonde, tall for her seven years, she had been one of my pupils when she was five and we had become friends.

Now she was lying face down in the back of her father’s pickup truck, which was parked at the side of the road. Thinking she was playing a game with her younger brother, I whispered, “Who are you hiding from?”

Then I realized that this was no game. Not when she was drawn into herself as tightly as possible, arms against her sides. Not with her face pressed against the floor of the truck.

In response to my question, she turned a tear-streaked face to me.

“What is it—what’s wrong?” I asked, as I stepped to the end of the truck. We reached out to each other over the tailgate in a clumsy embrace, and the child came into my arms, pressing against me, clinging for comfort.

Broken words told of a disappointment, of what to her was a broken promise—and heartache.

We talked. We cuddled. A slow smile came.

By the time I had completed my errand and returned that way, my small friend was joyously streaking up and down the sidewalk on roller skates.

But her heartbreak is not so easy for me to set aside, and a thought comes to my mind over and over again, “No private place for tears!”

Our city living offers few secret, quiet spots where a child can slip away to sort out thoughts and emotions. Where yards exist at all, every foot is trimmed and edged, leaving no “jungles” or “forests” or “hide-outs” for an imagination to soar, for feelings to be explored.

My own hurts and disappointments were examined in the privacy of such places as a tunnel burrowed among the tall, feathery asparagus shoots in the back garden. The tiny greenish-yellow blossoms overhead proved enticing to the bees, and their activity became a distraction to tears.

Or there were secret spots up in the branches of fruit trees at the center of the orchard, where heavy foliage created a leafy room just for me.

Today, homes are often crowded and yards are often small. But I believe that even the smallest homes and the largest families can provide private places and quiet moments. Rules of privacy could be formulated in family home evening discussions. A few square feet of backyard, for instance, could be one child’s private place, and it would be “off limits” to anyone else unless invited. A closed bedroom door would signal another “hide out.”

We must care enough to provide a private place—both for children and their parents—where each can become better acquainted with self and with our Heavenly Father. Lucy Parr, Salt Lake City, Utah