I wasn't quite sure what my parents saw in the little ranch house. Surely the tri level with the sparkly paint and white carpets in the bedrooms and the freshly-sodded lawn would have been so much better. That's what my 10-year-old self was thinking and trying to convince my parents of that 1967 house-hunting summer. I so wanted sparkly walls in my bedroom.
My parents had another plan. The little ranch had a bigger yard. I mean a huge yard. At least, it was huge through the eyes of this skinny, prepubescent, city-dwelling girl who'd grown up surrounded by two- and three-flats with postage-stamp yards and tiny pesticide-laced kitchen gardens.
This was the moment my parents had been waiting for. This was the fulfillment of their American dream - a home of their own with a back yard where they could grow an organic garden and where their five kids could climb trees, eat mulberries and green apples, play softball with the neighborhood kids, throw sticks for the puppy they'd soon bring home, and help take care of the garden.
They weren't planning any old small-scale backyard raised-bed spot for tomatoes and a few salad greens and peas. No sir, we are talking more like, um, mini farm. without the livestock. (Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, a pet rat, gerbils, goldfish, and even an occasional tarantula don't count as livestock.)
So the yard needed to be big. No new house on a treeless soulless lot in a white bread tri level subdivision with a chain link fence and a yard the size of a postage stamp would do for this family, no sirree! If that's what they were after, they may as well have just bought a house in the city.
They found a place with the perfect yard - lots of trees for shade on the kid side so their fair-haired freckle-faced brood wouldn't get sunburned playing outside in the days before sunscreen. Grandpa, with his horticultural degree and passion for trees had a little orchard on his little farm in the Ozarks. He was proud of his daughter and son-in-law when he came to visit, seeing all the trees my mom had described in her frequent letters back home. They talked pruning, fertilizing, mulching, and how trees were good for the environment, and I could tell my parents were proud of those trees too.
Their pride was infectious, and we kids became proud and awed after moving into our house when one day we decided to count the trees. Forty-six trees in the backyard, I kid you not. Being a city kid, I had never known anyone besides my grandparents who owned that many trees. Some of them were tall and slender and lined the fence and parkway, and others with lush canopies became bases for hundreds of summer softball games where girls and boys played together and no one got harassed by overzealous parents or coaches.
The garden side of the yard, well, that's a whole other post. The garden had a life and a soul of its own. Next time I'll tell you about that.