The summers of my childhood were a gentle time of long, sunny days spent playing with my cousins and brothers. My cousin and best friend in the whole wide world lived next door. Nearly every summer morning Sue and I would load up our doll strollers and push them along the hard-packed desert sand path to our grandparents’ house. The backyards of the three houses adjoined and formed our world. We never had to ask – we knew we were always welcome at Grandma’s house.
Someday I’ll tell you all about playing house in Grandma’s den, something which Sue and I spent countless hours doing. But today I want to share our stories of the front yard. My grandparents’ front yard was carpeted in thick, soft, well-watered grass. My grandpa often called me “Barefoot Sally” and I loved the feel of the cool lawn on my feet.
In the early years the yard was enclosed by a white wood fence which, if I remember correctly, was later replaced by chain link. Grandma loved roses and had them growing around the perimeter, just inside the fence. There were two huge elm trees which provided cool shade and something for the boys to climb. I wasn’t even remotely a tomboy so tree-climbing wasn’t generally on my agenda, although I do recall sitting in one of the trees reading a book one time.
There was a mother duck and her babies under one of the trees, something like this:
They weren’t plastic, though. I think they were made of cement. I just spent an inordinate amount of time online trying to find some but to no avail. I suppose that means I won’t be adding a set to my own front yard anytime soon.
But back to my story. Grandma also had several aluminum, webbed lawn chairs and folding lounge chairs like the one pictured at the top of this post. Everyone seemed to have some of these back in the 60s and early 70s. They were sturdy, lightweight and easy to repair if the webbing needed to be replaced. (I’m resisting the urge to order the one I have pictured – it’s on eBay right now.) They also made fantastic kid forts.
With a couple of Grandma’s thin, soft, old blankets and several lawn chairs, we’d build forts on the lawn then play inside our Downy-scented creation. I don’t recall everything we pretended but I do know we often played that we were shipwrecked on an island and had to build a shelter.
While playing house with our dolls was something Sue and I did by ourselves, our games on the lawn always included the boys. I’m not sure whose idea it was but I can remember playing “communion” in the front yard at least once. Grandma always had a pitcher of sweet tea made (I have no idea how many she must have made a day with so many thirsty grandchildren running in and out of the house) and she always had saltine crackers. I doubt we told her our plans when we took tea and crackers outside and I don’t recall who performed the sacrament. But I do remember solemnly partaking of sweet tea and saltines with my brothers and cousins in a childish enactment of religious remembrance.
Even though those carefree summer days of childhood are long past I am still occasionally flooded with memories of that rare and precious time. On a breezy summer day when the humidity is uncharacteristically low…when the sun is bright and the sky is a certain shade of blue…when the leaves rustle in just that particular way…in those fleeting moments I am, once again, a child in my grandparents’ front yard sharing sweet tea and saltines in perfect communion.