Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Back Yard


I'm entertained for hours just by sitting in the back yard.  I spent much of last night watching a young rabbit trying in vain to play with a yard full of robins.  Each time he'd hop closer to one, it would fly away in confusion. "I was just lookin' for worms here, Fuzzy. Buzz off!"  Popcorn-worthy.  And, I spent much of this afternoon stalking a praying mantis I found that was as big as my hand.  It found me much less amusing than I it.

I don't think I couldn't ever reside somewhere that didn't have a backyard.  It was the backdrop to practically all of our childhood adventures.  Living on a couple acre spread growing up, we had plenty of room for badminton, Marco Polo, tether ball, tree house and a make-shift bowling alley in the woods that us kids created with debris and whatever random relics we found there.  Now living on land 1/4 that size, there's still plenty of room for the local bunnies, squirrels, birds, groundhogs, bugs and deer to visit.

Corral and woods behind me & Tammy
The wooded portion of our childhood backyard was probably where we had the most fun.  There was an old pony corral left over from the days when my parents attempted pony ownership before we were conceived.  The yellow paint on the wooded fencing was mostly chipped off by the time we came around, but it was still good for countless hours of climbing. 

There was the section of the woods that my mother threatened us to keep clear off because it was where an old outhouse once stood.  I don't know how deep the hole that was dug for the latrine, but my mother had us convinced that we'd fall in it to our doom if we came too close.  We would circle the area with a 20 foot circumference of caution.  In our imaginations the outhouse hole was pit-worthy in size and, if we were to fall into it, we were sure never to be able to climb out.  We would most likely be stranded in there until some wealthy Egyptians would pass by and kindly offer to buy us into slavery.

In the winter time the ground in the woods would completely freeze over, which was perfect for boot-skating.  We would slide on the ice in our snow boots with such perfect force that when we'd grab any random tree we would spin around it several times before falling down and/or splitting a lip.

There were always mysterious artifacts to be found. Tin cans, broken old dishes, rocks, shells.  Anything appearing more than thirty years in age we'd wonder if it could possibly be something the Native Americans once used on our land. 

We once thought my dog had found an alien in the woods (even though we never really believed in aliens.) I was babysitting the younger two on a very hot summer day and as we were getting out of the pool our dog, Buddy, came running out of the woods with something pink and fleshy-looking in his mouth.  He brought it to us with such pride we were sure, "Oh no. He's killed something for us!"  He suddenly let out a yelp, dropped the creature on the ground and jumped backward.  He tried to pick it up once more, but yelped again as if the thing was stinging him!  I got brave and tried to get a closer look.  It looked pink and slimy and had some sort of tentacles snapping out in a threatening manner.  It made a strange, squealing, unearthly noise.  We screamed and ran for the telephone!  I remember placing the call to my aunt, but can't remember for the life of me what on earth I told her.  We comforted Buddy and checked his mouth for lacerations saying quick prayers that he wouldn't die from whatever kind of sting he just received while we waited for her.  She got to our house quickly, considering she only lived minutes away, and heroically went to inspect the "alien".  I'm sure the fear in our eyes as we waited starkly contrasted the amusement in her's when she made her quick analysis.  "Do you know what this is?" she asked us.  Obviously we didn't.  Well, it was a dried-out rubber band ball our dog had found in the woods.  It was snapping apart in the extreme heat.  He hadn't been gravely injured trying to kill something.  He had found a ball and wanted us to play with him!  The "tentacles" were broken bands and the slime consisted strictly of dog saliva.  I'd never been more relieved or humbled.
 
We had the usual toys as well.  Sandbox, swing set, slide, jungle gym.  I didn't realize what great shape these backyard toys kept us in until middle-age when I tried to climb a monkey bar with my niece and instantly seemed to have torn an armpit muscle or two.  You don't realize how many muscles exist in your body back in the days when you're using them all without any knowledge of it. 

"Kind Sir"
We had a game we'd play in the back yard called "Kind Sir".  The rules were simple.  The three of us sisters would climb onto any play structure of our choosing.  Once you chose your spot, you were stranded there.  The game would begin when the youngest sibling, our little brother, would ride into the yard on his Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel.  We'd wave hankies and plea "Kind sir! Kind sir! Come save me! Over here!" and one by one he'd come and rescue us all with a kiss on the hand.  You couldn't move from your spot until your hand was kissed by the boy with the blonde bowl haircut.  I have no idea how or why we created this game.  Were we playing out "damsel in distress" fantasies or trying to teach the little one how to be a gentleman?  Whatever our intention, I believe the game only resulted in my brother thinking he needs to be lavished with female affection for every waking minute of the remainder of his life. (Just kidding, T. *wink*)

The family that lives in our old house now also has four children.  I often wonder if their kids use the back yard as much as us.  Do they wonder, like we did, why there's a big metal reflector fastened to the big oak tree in the back yard?  Do they wonder why every so often they'll find a rusty old chain wrapped around a tree trunk and make up stories to how they got there. (I know the answer to that one! They're from when Buddy would escape his dog chain and try to hide out in the woods.  He'd inevitably get himself wrapped around a tree every time!)  Is the tree house that my brother and I built in our teens still standing in the woods?  Do they recognize the rap lyrics we graffitied its walls with?  Are their kids even allowed in the woods? 

I don't care if you live in the city, the country-side or some fancy schmancy subdivision.  The backyard.  It's the most valuable piece of land in worth of childhood memories.


(Below: Pages from a Memory Book I had drawn in my twenties.  Half of the book consisted of our back yard shenanigans.)



The chopped off caption read: "Climbing trees was always fun... except once!" True story.  My sister and I had decided to have our snacks up in the climbing tree one afternoon.  Her snack (a one-handed treat) was a wisely chosen Popsicle.  I, notoriously, opted for the two-handed bowl of Cocoa Puffs. 

1 comment:

)O( Figgy )O( said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Especially the art work!!