The girls cannot get enough of “out back”. They want to spend all day every day out there in the sun. The minute they walk into the house they want to know when we are going out back. This being May, the mornings are still a little damp and chilly so I have to fend off their desire for out back until mid-morning when the dew is mostly gone from the grass and the air has lost its crispness. Then I can finally acquiesce to their demands, open the backdoor (they always insist on helping with the back door), and usher them into paradise.
Our backyard is a typical suburban retreat. Most of our modest, quarter acre, lot is in the back surrounded by a six foot privacy fence. There is a deck that my husband built when we first moved in twenty-five years ago. It runs the length of the house and is adorned with a pergola at one end, the grill, and the usual deck furniture. There is a paved walkway that leads from the deck to a patio in the south side of the yard, under a maple tree. My husband and I built the patio and walkway several years ago and my muscles still ache (stone work is hard). Past the patio, in the south corner of the yard, is the “Secret Garden” that we made for the girls last year. The “Secret Garden” is entered through a little gate in a vine-covered arbor that we hope will be covered with blooms this summer. Inside there are a multitude of flowers (Mackey would pick them all if you let her), garden sculptures, and a little bench just big enough for the two of them. The rest of the yard is grass and flowers and bushes and trees.
Out we go into this quiet retreat and the girls head right for the swings. There are two swings hanging from the pergola, one for each girl. Up until last week there was only one swing but that had become such an object of dispute between the girls that a second swing became a necessity. Both girls love to swing, but especially Mackey. She is a swing addict, and will swing, literally, for hours. That, of course, requires me to push her on the swing for said hours, since her less than two year old legs have not yet acquired the ability to pump. I push and she swings, back and forth, and gradually enters into what seems to be a transcendental state, her eyes glazing over and her body becoming so relaxed that she’ll sometimes fall asleep to the soft rush of air and rhythmic squeak of the swing.
Kiley likes to swing too but it holds her attention for a shorter amount of time than it does for Mackey, then she’s off to some other endeavor. Kiley is a true summer girl. She wants to feel the wind on her face and the grass between her toes, and she roams the backyard like a woodland sprite, her feet bare and her long, curly hair wild and unbrushed. She moves from one activity to another – swinging, hitting the T-Ball, kicking the kick ball around the yard, watching the ants on the patio, riding the big wheel on the deck, blowing bubbles, or relaxing in the secret garden. When Uncle Tom comes out she always wants him to help her climb the maple tree by the patio (when Mackey sees this she wants a turn too.) Uncle Tom had recently made the mistake of climbing into the maple tree himself to show off for the girls. They had been so impressed that climbing the Maple tree became one of their most desired diversions. They also like to watch Uncle Tom cut the grass, or split wood, or rake leaves. Anything Uncle Tom does seems heroic to them.
There are several types of wildlife that frequent the backyard. There are the birds, of course, which we feed, and the squirrels, which we also feed and who have become so accustomed to us that they are willing to share the back yard with us, as long as we don’t get too close. There are rabbits that live under the deck and a ground hog who lives in the yard next door and makes an occasional appearance through a hole he has dug under the fence. One day last week we were treated to the spectacle of a small flock of sparrows noisily ganging up on a large hawk that had invaded their territory. Butterflies abound (Kiley is afraid of them for some reason, in fact, she doesn’t like bugs in general.) There are also a number of carpenter bees which have bored a nest into the deck. They are big, the same size as bumble bees, and are strange creatures that hover buzzingly in front of your face, but appear to be merely curious rather than aggressive. They seem willing to share the deck with us without any real friction. Google says the males have no stingers but the females do, though they rarely use them and must be extremely provoked before they’ll sting. Uncle Tom is fond of the carpenter bees (he admires their curiosity and willingness to live in harmony with humans) but the girls don’t trust them and “raise the alarm” whenever they spot one. I, myself, am not fond of any bee that big, friendly or not, and since they upset the girls (and are probably doing irreparable damage to our deck and possibly house) I have begun a campaign of systematic extermination (don’t tell Uncle Tom.)
For now the back yard is a pleasant place to relax and play but, like all things, it will eventually become ho-hum to the girls who constantly need new kinds of stimulation to keep them interested. Of course, by then it will be time to break out the baby pool, sprinkler, squirt guns, and water balloons. Summer!