Our house was a small, 2-story structure with a back yard that faced a forest; in front and across the road was a river. Despite my youth, I felt right at home in both locales and spent a lot of time exploring the woods or doing whatever it was I did down by the water, usually accompanied by Dog, a noble beast of German Shepherd and St-Bernard background. (Those interested in that animal may wish to visit "His name was dog" for further information.)
Well, not everyone thought it was a good idea for a toddler to be out and about on his own and one day - this is one of my very earliest memories - there came a knock at the front door.
I was upstairs, but came to the top of the stairs to find out what was going on.
My father opened the door and a policeman stepped inside the house.
It seemed the police had received a call from a concerned neighbour and had come to check out the allegations that a child was being neglected.
"We've been told your son plays down by the river," said the cop.
My father nodded. "Yes."
"They say he is often down there by himself."
Another nod, another yes.
The policeman seemed disconcerted by the calm lack of denial or of explanation coming from my dad.
"Well," he finally sputtered, "Don't let him play by the river any more!"
My father made a non-commital gesture of some sort and saw the constable to the door.
Slowly, I descended the stairs, where my father stood as if he had known I had been listening in.
I stopped before him and he looked down at me as I stared up at him.
At length, he said, "Geoffrey - the policeman doesn't want you to play by the river any more."
I kept staring. My father's tone was matter-of-fact, his expression inscrutably neutral.
After what seemed a lengthy silence, I found my voice and said, "Daddy, I'm going to go play by the river!" daring him to forbid it.
I needn't have worried.
"Okay!" quoth the old man, and I was once more off and out into the world.