virtual children by Scott Warnock

My yard used to be a playland

No Gravatar

One of the many advantages of my job is that I work at home sometimes, especially in the summer.

Some say they could never work at home, but I’m the type who gets way more accomplished at a way higher level when I’m at home. I lock in, hide away, and get stuff done.

Certainly, a big part of this efficiency is because I have a great home office. It’s tucked in the back of the house on the second floor, and a kid or spouse has to make a special trip if they want to bother, er, visit me. In the summer, unless it’s boiling hot, I can throw open several of the 10 large windows that take up three of the walls and enjoy the breeze, the birds, the far-off bells of the train – it’s a good work environment.

Mild winds and chirping birds are indeed nice, but for most of my 16 years living in this house, the only slight downside to summer work-at-home day has been outside distractions. You see, my yard used to be a playland, a child’s paradise. We had a trampoline, a sandbox. The yard was scattered with Nerf darts and water guns. We had a mega playset with a spinning tire, climbing wall, and deluxe climbing tube — oh, and plenty of swings. We had a small plastic pool we got a lot of mileage out of. (My wife bought the pool over my objections about 15 years ago. She just pulled up with it strapped to the car while the neighbors cackled. I forget why I thought it was a dumb purchase.)

This backyard was all by design. We wanted the army of neighborhood kids at the time to be around. They’d play in the yard all day, and we’d hear our children growing up with their friends.

In addition, directly behind my house was the famous Maple Lane Swim Club. My neighbors, Bob and Dottie Heck, whose backyard was catty-corner to our backyard, right across our narrow lane, had an in-ground pool. All their kids and grandkids and the neighborhood kids learned to swim there.

When their daughter Diane, son-in-law Bill, and granddaughter Jamie (who we always called our sunshine daughter because of her lovably spicy disposition) would come by, Bill would stand in the yard bellowing “Scccottt!” until that and the splashing compelled me to come by and see what was going on. After they moved to North Carolina, their return would be accompanied by Bill adding a southern twist, bellowing “Jethro!”

For years, all the kids would splash in the pool and jump on the trampoline and swing on the swings. It was distracting, but it was a great time of life.

This summer, it’s quieter.

Several years ago, as the grandkids were growing up and many of their kids had moved south, my neighbors decided to drain the pool. We did it in a somber ceremony, taking turns poking holes in the bottom. I was surprised at how quickly the water drained away.

In my yard, time – and my sometimes over-industrious wife – has removed our play items, one by one. There’s now a garden where the swingset was, a dog run for our little Prue where the trampoline stood.

My kids and their friends are out and about, doing what older kids do.

One of the last things to go was our plastic pool. My wife gave it to the kids next door last summer. Last week, as the heat started to climb in Jersey, the two little girls, who are going into fourth and fifth grade, filled it up.

I was in the middle of writing some important blog post or something, and I heard a mild commotion, so I had to get up to see what they were doing. They were splashing, running around the yard. They were making a lovely racket, singing and shrieking. Even their brother, moving into high school, plopped himself in to cool off.

I took a break and hollered over to them.

Then I went back to work, a good bit happier for the distraction.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.
Print This Post Print This Post

5 Responses to “My yard used to be a playland”

  1. I think I heard Harry Chaplin in the background. Holy F your getting old. Long ride home from York. Hahaha.

  2. What great imagery. What happy memories. What an idyllic oasis.

    You’ve grown weak.

  3. Oh Scott … I cried while reading this. (I read it 6 times and cried each time )
    These past 2 weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for me. Maple Lane Swim Club defines who we all are , a forever community of kindred spirits.
    We love you all so very much, you are so much more than “neighbors”, you are family. I hope our children are fortunate enough to experience in their adult life the very things you speak of. Hugs to you all. ? Rock on Jethro!!

  4. Oh Scott…. you made me cry tears of joy and happiness.
    Maple Lane Swim Club and the neighborhood defines who we are, a community of kindred spirits. And don’t forget, we missed the camaraderie of the summer so we started our annual “Soup and chili” parties in the middle of winter to get us through to the summers. No matter where life takes us , the joys and experiences of the backyards live forever in our hearts.
    I hope our children have the good fortune to experience “backyards” as adults.
    Rock on Jethro !!!! Love to you all ?

  5. I just read PKR’s comment, above, to my secretary in order to define, for her, the essential nature of my relationship with my friends.

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment