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Archive for December, 2015

He started it.

It’s been on the edge of my consciousness since October 30th…the day he got engaged. But after his Instagram post yesterday, the reality is clear: my little boy will soon be moving on to begin the next season of his life as a husband and someday, a father. His moment of nostalgia concerning our backyard made me cry. Because I remember…oh, how I remember.

Compared to this age of camera phones, selfies and Instagram, I don’t have the photo evidence of the hundreds of hours they spent playing, digging, swinging, kicking, catching, tackling, working, mowing, painting, and even sunbathing in that little piece of ground outside my kitchen window.

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We moved to our little house 22 years ago this month. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with our last baby boy and the backyard was hidden by a few inches of snow. The big reveal didn’t occur until spring but once my oldest boy’s feet found grass, he had his lifelong playground.

The only fences were put there by our neighbors and through the years we retrieved many errant balls and Frisbees which managed to fly a little further than intended. It looked a little different back then – a huckleberry bush grew up right in the middle but we cut it down after too many purple stains all over clean clothes. (“But Mom, I had to slide. The throw was coming home!”)

We’ve recently returned to a small garden plot after many years of open ground. Our attempts in those first few years were feeble at best. But we tried and we ate our produce: radishes and few tomatoes our only successes.

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A  swing set was the first addition to that little backyard. It was a popular destination for our neighbor’s daycare kids. It had a little basketball hoop attached and I’ll never forget the image of my little guy shooting ball after ball after ball up at that hoop. He hardly ever made it but he was only 18-months-old. That “I won’t quit” attitude was already pretty well-developed even then.

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That backyard was the site of some world-class kickball games: Parents vs Sons. Those little boys thought they could beat their mom and dad and eventually, when they learned teamwork and cooperation (and their parents got old and slow), they triumphed more times than not. We had to quit when the ball almost always went over the garage into the woods along the trail. Instant home run but poison ivy threat for anyone who had to retrieve it.

We added a basketball hoop along the driveway when the guys were barely old enough to bounce one, but it became the scene of a few more Parents vs Sons pick up games. I’ll never forget the look of shock on my boy’s face when I deliberately fouled him to keep him from scoring. “Mom! You pushed me…on purpose!” Why yes, Son, I did. Welcome to playing sports with your mother.

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But my favorite memories are of a little boy who used that backyard as his getaway from real life and allowed his imagination to transport him. I had a front row seat (actually, an open window) as I watched him hit wiffle balls which became walk-off home runs in his mind’s baseball game scenario. He’d catch the winning touchdown pass in the closing seconds of his football game; he swung his golf club and put that imaginary ball in the cup for a hole-in-one every time; he scored the last second three-pointer to win his basketball game. All played within the boundaries of his imagination.

In my mind I see little boys bent down examining tiny green radish tops and blonde heads bent together whispering under a huckleberry bush. I see the outline of a diamond track in the grass from the hundreds of little boys’ feet trotting out base hit after base hit after base hit. I see the phone line swinging back and forth after endless attempts at catching pop flies hitting that pesky line through the middle of our “field.” I hear giggles and arguments, made up sports broadcasts and shouts of victory. I smell the air and the grass and the dirt that envelops my little boys after an afternoon in their backyard.

I tried my hand at landscaping throughout the years but between my disinterest in weeding and maintenance and the endless little feet using my hosta as “home plate,” it never really turned out well. I should probably plant something now that the yard is quiet but I just can’t find the inspiration. That backyard is meant for little boys and imaginations.

The swing set and basketball hoop are long gone and soon, so will my little boys, one to life with a new bride, the other to life after college. That backyard is a sacred place – where God watched over two boys as they grew from babies to men – where they learned sportsmanship and attitudes, teamwork and inspiration, confidence and humility – where their imaginations took them wherever they wanted to go.

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