Sunday, May 18, 2008


"ALLISON! Come here! I have to show you something!" Ruben bellows as he hangs out his bedroom window. "It's a rock! Come see, hurry!" Ever since one of the lousy neighbors called the police about the neighborhood kids playing in the street, all 8 of them have had to stay inside unless adult supervision was present outside. Considering that the adults in these households don't really like being outside, the kids are forced to call me over to their windows to show me what cool snakes, frogs, lizards, and rocks they've found.

I respect the kids for minding orders from the police. I think the recent restrictions on their outdoor recreation has seriously impacted their freedom, but I've stepped up to the plate and performed the role as "adult supervisor" every once in a while, letting them play in my wooly yard. Since I have a serious aversion to the whole concept of mowing, (the energy it uses! the almost socialist concept of what is the perfect lawn! the wildlife benefits of a yard filled with wildflowers!) the kids adore being in my backyard, a rangy little stand of oaks and hickories with an understory of violets, grape vines, small elms and knee-high sedges.

The kids call my rental yard a "forest." When in the backyard, they pretend to be wolves stalking prey, leopards wading through the tall grass, rabbits, grazing deer. I told them that they simply "can't be" cows, goats, or any other form of domesticated animal that has wreaked havoc on our landscapes. Only wild animals. Ruben pretends to be a bat, an animal that requires him to be high in the treetop. He's found a great path to the top of a cedar that allows the tree climber a good view into a cardinal's nest. The kids like to sit on my big rugs inside to read their library books. I'm privy to the garter snakes, lizards, frogs, wounded squirrels, and cool rocks they find. I feel pretty lucky that I can enjoy them on my own terms, but I don't have to waste my life trying to finance their college careers or, worse still, trying to protect them from all the ills of the world. No, I'm just the fun neighbor. So, next week, when I return from a great conference on oaks and fire, we're all going to make piggy banks out of plastic bottles to hold all the pennies and nickels they keep finding in the street. So, see, the kids with my daffodils; Ruben, Angelina, and Marcos playing with my summer hat collection; Marcos delicately touching a ladybug while it was feasting on aphids; Winter in one of my hats in the hallway, proud of the nice chert she found in my backyard; Angelina and the rehab squirrel (a small creature her cat, Midnight, brought in); all of them stalking a mourning dove--quietly, deliberately. I asked what would have happened if they had edged closer before the dove flew off. Ruben says, "I could have seen her breathe."

1 comment:

Nathan said...

You mean if I stopped mowing I'd get garter snakes, more frogs, and squirrels that crawl on my back?!

Great post. Good to see the kids. The elementary school T-shirt was particularly telling. I'm glad to see that you are able to appeal to the kids innate desire to learn about their world.