Monday, November 25, 2013

Being in the backyard

One of the reasons we moved from a very walkable central neighborhood to a slightly less central and much less walkable neighborhood was space.  Not interior space--though we were outgrowing our one-bedroom apartment with HP on the way--but exterior.  I wanted to garden.  I want to hang clothes outside to dry.  I wanted the space to work on projects without compromising our living space in the process.  I wanted to look out my window and not see a parking lot. 

But more than all of that, I wanted my child to grow up in a place where he could connect to the outdoors in a real kind of way.  Of course there are parks, trails, and other community outdoor spaces, but it did not--and does not--feel the same as a yard.  A yard feels more intimate, more personal.

I have hundreds of memories of the backyard from my childhood.  I remember creating an ongoing story with my friends that involved a home we created under the pine tree near the fence as though we were boxcar children.  I remember the makeshift baseball field we designed and how we originally ran the bases the wrong way.  (We were not a sports family.)  I remember hours spent crafting daisy chains in the summer with our neighbors two houses down.  I remember the magic of catching fireflies on the back patio.  I remember thinking that there was absolutely nothing better than running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day.

I want that for HP.  Not a replica of my childhood, but an outdoor space that is uniquely his in a way that public places never will be.

Let clarify a few things about our yard.  We do little to no upkeep.  I would be embarrassed about it, but I can't be bothered to care.  We are terrible at landscaping, mowing, and generally keeping our yard looking presentable.  I blame the fact that our time devoted to all things house related has focused on interior projects like the kitchen and bathroom.  For the first year we lived here our backyard was an overgrown mess.  Now that HP is of an age where he wants to be outside as much as possible, we are slowly making it into a landscape fit for toddler fun.

We do not have a slide.  We do not have a swing.  We have no jungle-gym type contraptions.  We do have leaves, buckets, a broom, sticks, rocks, bugs, and golf balls.  Some days HP carries the buckets around collecting leaves.  Other days he wants us both to sit on them and chat.  This morning we spent half an hour walking up and down the mulch path that leads from our patio to the back gate and into the wilderness* beyond.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that I am spending less time picking up toys as HP and I abandon the confines of the indoors for the adventures in our backyard. 

I can't say I mind the change.

*Of course I use the term wilderness lightly, though the grass past the gate is taller than HP's head and eventually prevents him from continuing.  I think that's pretty wild in his world.

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