I’ve been MIA for a bit while the major driveway/patio overhaul has begun. Update on that soon.
Today’s memory challenge is inspired by the work being done outside our house. Setting is important to our stories and often we can take pieces of our past to help us ground the settings in our book. Think about just one yard from your childhood. What stands out most in your mind?
For the first few years of my life my mother and I lived with my grandparents in the house my mother had grown up in. Back then it seemed huge but when I go to Google Maps now and look at the picture of it now, it looks so small. The two big trees in the front yard are gone. (I remember standing against one of them when I got hit in the eye with a softball.) It’s still painted yellow and the big front porch is still red. We used to have lots of grass up close to the house, perfect for doing somersaults and cartwheels and standing on my head It was an oversized lot so the backyard had plenty of room for adventures. Closer to the street there was a long patch of lippia that made a flat mat of green with little blue flowers that were always covered in bees.
It was the backyard though that I loved best of all. Going out from the washer/dryer porch there was a long porch attached to the house. From there you could go down to the scary basement. There was a door from my grandparents bedroom to go outside and there was even an outdoor bathroom. Not an outhouse but an actual flush toilet in a tiny closet on the porch. It was great when you were out playing and didn’t want to run in the house.
Tight off the porch there was a huge in the ground clothesline, stationary, not one that spun. The metal bars holding it were fatter than the bars on the playground I still used to try and spin myself around on them.
There was a huge two car detached garage, one half had my grandfather’s boat and the other my grandmother’s seldom driven car. Some car repair tools and I don’t know what else was in there. The big place for tools was the huge shed (the size of a garage) behind the closeline. It had an old roll-top desk that was filled my grandfather’s woodworking tools and various nuts and bolts. It was always dusty and filled with cobwebs but I didn’t mind. There was a small hole in one side, a couple of feet square, so Gippy, my grandfather’s hunting dog, could get in out of the rain.
Next to the shed there was a fenced off section that I wasn’t supposed to go in but of course I did. There was a giant pile of bricks left from whenever they took out the fireplace (before I was born.) I used to try and stack them up to make a fort. The weeds always grew tall in here. I don’t know what kind of weed it was but it was the one that had 5 or 6 long needle – shaped things that we could use to spear flowers for making flower necklaces.
Beside that section was the back back yard. Or the way back yard. The incinerator was back here and the fence dividing our property from the neighbors was just a wire fence with a grid of about 4″, big enough for me to get my hands through to pet the dog on the other side.
An apricot tree was back here too and I would forever get in trouble for hammering nails into the tree so the sap could run and I could watch it dry to shimmering golden teardrop on the trunk.
We had giant almond and walnut trees (taking care of them was always a chore) and one of walnut tree had a rope swing. I could climb on the fence and jump off with the swing and feel just like tarzan! I had a basketball hoop (no net) on the side of the garage with a dirt court. I couldn’t wait for my grandfather to get home from work and play HORSE with me.
There weren’t many plants growing other than the fruit and nut trees (oranges, apricots, lots of walnuts and almonds) so I don’t know where I got my love of gardening.
The yard, like the house, was old and run-down and more than we could take care but my happiest childhood memories are playing in the backyard.
Your turn, tell me about one of your favorite backyards.
When I was in fourth and fifth grade, we lived on the edge of Cape Cod, among the sand pits and the cranberry bogs. We lived in a trailer park, and the trailer lots were pure sand. You couldn’t grow grass there unless you imported dirt and the grass that you rolled out in sod strips. We had a tiny rectangle of sand that we called our yard, and enclosed it with a tall wooden fence one side, closest to the road. For the most part, we didn’t stay in our yard. Our play place was the woods down the street, the “mountain” behind us that we’d climb and pick blueberries, the sand pits around us and the cranberry bogs themselves. We’d pick cranberries at the edge of the bogs, slide down the sandy pits and visit the gypsies that would move in next to the sand pits each summer. They were mysterious and dangerous, so you could never go too close. But it was fascinating to watch them build wooden outdoor furniture that they would sell off the back of their trucks during the summer tourist season.
What I remember most about our yard, was claiming space and making it our own. In the one corner of the fence, we made a fort by putting a long pole from one frame of the fence to another. We’d lay scrap wood over this, and hang blankets down from it, making a triangle shaped fort. We must have had four feet or less space in it, but it was ours and felt very private. In the back of the lot, the land fell away suddenly, making a dirt ledge. We’d build a fort along this ledge, creating a long lodge-like dwelling, so small we had to crawl into it, and could barely sit up. We were so excited once to be in it during a rain storm. We had covered it with plastic (to stop up all the holes between the scrap wood) and had created a hobbit-like home inside. We had shelves and cubby holes to put pencils and books, and boxes where we’d store munchies. Our great plans included hoping to sleep out in it. But we discovered many leaks during that thunderstorm, and never did spend the night out there, just in case it rained again.
Thanks for bringing back a cool memory.
Oh what a wonderful memory! Cranberry bogs – wow – I can’t even imagine it. Thanks for sharing this with me.
Not a back yard. Yard, period.
My grandmother and grandfather had a dairy farm. Cows, goats and sheep. Their yard with dogs tramping over it, and an old washtub (for the dogs, and muddy children) in one corner of the yard. There was almost always wash hanging on the line, and the sound of lowing cows, in the distance.
There were trees, all over. It was great for sitting out, in the summer under a tree with a book. A dog or two would always wander over for a pet and a belly rub.
But the thing I remember the most, was the smell. Grandma’s pride was her rose bushes, and they’d bloom, all summer long. The scent probably should have been cloying (these were BIG bushes, and they had TONNES of blooms) but it always smelled good. Then the wind would change and all that ya’d smell would be the livestock and the manure, and even that didn’t bother me. I still like the way a barn smells.
The grass was thick and lush and just perfect for lounging in with or without the farm dogs.
I loved that yard.
I can feel the love for your grandparents and their yard in this memory. Thank you for sharing. So many wonderful details.
It’s been a busy week, so just getting around to comment.
I was a child who did not like change. Ever. In any form. When I was born, we lived in a pretty standard tract home, with nothing special about it, really, but it was mine. When I was nine, my parents bougth property on a hill overlooking the ocean, designed their own beautiful home and had it built. Then we moved.
Never liked it as much. Nope. 🙂
So…the backyard in my FIRST house: The swing set and the sandbox where we spent many hours trying to dig to China–or for gold. Way deep down (probably like six inches!), the sand suddenly turned to dark, almost black, thick, heavy dirt. That was magic when we got there.
Succulents. I just described this to my dad the other day–the little hill in our backyard that was covered with rocks and a succulent garden. He says it was really just a little mound, but I sure remember it as a hill. And, although I certainly don’t grow them (I don’t grow anything), I do always look on succulents with affection–there really isn’t any other plant with just that bluish-green tint to it.
A small deck. I have very brief memories, which are probably mostly from photos, of playing out there–painting our arms and faces, playing with our sheltie. I know my great-grandmother actually was out there with us, because she’s in a few of the photos, but I’m pretty sure that ISN’T my memory, just knowledge.
The avocado tree. I did not like (or eat) avocados while we lived in that house, but I remember how tall the tree was, and I have some sense that that tree was the hardest thing for my parents to leave behind. They planted another, though, at the new house, and I’m guessing its even taller!
And a single asparagus stalk growing against the side of the house. Did my mom really tell us to go out and pick asparagus off that stalk for dinner? It was almost as tall as I was, in my memory, but it must have been hard and woody–surely she didn’t really cook that. Maybe it was just to get us out of her kitchen for a few minutes?
I was a child who did not like change either. (Hmm…and now I’m an adult who doesn’t like change.) You’ve got a ton of details in here. Boy, I can picture it all.
The hill vs mound, isn’t that funny? In our memory things are so much bigger. I remember my grandmother’s house as huge and tall but when I look at the pictures of it now (via Google maps) it is very small. Thanks for sharing this.