Monday, December 1, 2008

"The Back Yard"

When I was in 11th grade, I wrote this essay for Mrs. Gentry, my AP english teacher. The rest of my class did not appreciate how hard she pushed us, but I loved it. I found this essay as well as a few others while I was throwing stuff out for the move. I took some liberties with it, but the majority of it is true.

The back yard

“You can’t catch me!” I yelled at Erin as I streaked around a corner of the hallway. Her giggling came from close behind me and I could sense the vibrations of her steps through the wooden floor. Emily suddenly popped around a corner and I let out a screech.

 “go play in the yard,” my mother called from the kitchen in a restrained tone. So Emily who is four years ahead of me, Erin who is two years my senior and I marched onto the back porch in a grand parade. We stood there; swatting at flies and looking out over the acre of land that was our backyard, trying to decide what to do next.

Along the perimeter of the backyard sauntered a haphazard fence of hog wire, which enclosed our usual area of play. The real purpose of the fence was to keep was to keep enterprising dogs and wildlife out of our garden and chickens, but for me the fence stood as the boundary of civilization, the only separation between me and the wild animals that prowled and growled in the night. Inside the fence sprawled a barn, four trees, a swing, and a playhouse. Of course, to us those things were not just ordinary objects but mystical things.

The barn was a haunted and magical structure wallpapered in spider webs. Inside were the biting but somehow sweet odors of mechanical grease, dry hay, and horse feed. The barn was a graveyard for tools frozen by rust, artifacts of bygone eras. I would never ventured in it too far; for fear that scratchy hay on the back of my legs was really an imagined ghoul. My sisters, of course, never discouraged these fears and often fed them with stories.

The four trees that were scattered around our house not only provided tranquil and relaxing shade on a scorching day, but also a wonderful natural playground. The rough bark of the live oak provided traction for climbing. In the winter, the orange tree gave us succulent, tangy fruit that made our chins and fingers sticky. The avocado tree was mammoth and acted like the bank when the backyard was an imagined town. We never ventured near the key lime tree, which was the wicked witch’s tower to us, with all of its thorns.

The rubber swing hung prominently between the oak tree and the orange tree in the dead center of the back yard kingdom. We used it as a vine when we played Tarzan, a rollercoaster in our theme park, and under unusual circumstances, as a swing. I could sit under the trees as cool as lemonade, listening to the twitter of birds above me and the hum of the dragonflies. A few feet away, I could smell the baking grass and practically see the heat rising from the ground. And yet, I could sail through the thick air like Peter Pan on the swing, the wind on my face.

The last main object in our yard was of great importance to the imaginative careers of our minds. The playhouse was a very sturdy little hut built to the size restrictions of small children. It was the last remaining link to my grandfather, who built it for my second Christmas and passed away not a year later from leukemia. He fashioned the outside of rough boards painted muddy brown and smoky gray shingles. Inside the rough little divided door there was a brightly colored plastic Fisherprice kitchen set that I received for my fifth Christmas, and a tiny table and shelf for things deemed precious by children. On either side of the house, a window was cut into the wall complete with shutters. Outside was a red brick stoop my father laid out with flowering marigolds along the sides. The playhouse was the center of my creative universe. Here I played house through rain or shine and the food I cooked was almost real enough to taste. I could be Snow White living in her cottage or a rancher out on the range. Often I was a pirate and the house my ship. My imagined world was so real I could take days to play out a character. And this sprouted from a single tiny brown building.

When I moved away from those wide-open spaces eight years ago, my heart was shattered. The new backyard did not hold nearly the allure of the old. It seemed barren with no trees or playhouses. But as people do, I accepted the change, and in doing so changed myself.

When I visited my old house recently, I noticed my old backyard had fallen into decay since I last ran in it. The trees are diseased and dying. The little playhouse where I preformed my dreams had all but rotted away to a pile of trash. I mourned the passing of my young childhood spot until I realized that the summer days I had experienced there were not over. My old physical back yard is now just a place for discarded dreams, but my real backyard, the one I played in and dreamed in will always live on in vibrant color in my memories.

 

1 comment:

Kim said...

Beautiful story!