I grew up in three houses. The back yard of house number one, although no bigger than the average back yard, felt like the size of a Ringling Bros. Circus because I had a tiny body and a massive imagination. There was a sandbox with a swing set (awesome), a playhouse my sister and I could fit in at the same time (awesome) and a tall slide made out of metal (awesome, unless you forgot to run the water hose down it first on a hot day). On any given day, the sand box could be a snake-filled quicksand pit, the swing set a pirate ship, the playhouse a restaurant, and the slide a lookout for intruders. When it got too hot, we'd retreat to the shaded patio, suck water from the hose for ten Mississippi's, and stoop down on our hands and knees to work on pastel chalk murals or play gigantic games of hang-man on the cement. That back yard was our territory, and we ruled with authority and conviction. If you didn't follow our rules, we'd send your ass home without a turn on the slip n' slide. Even our parents knew to tread lightly. One summer day, my dad accidentally broke our blue plastic wading pool. We screamed and cried and made him promise to replace it. He never fulfilled that debt, but he sure received some serious 'tude about it for years to come.
The third back yard was mostly an escape/escapade route for my pubescent years. One gate swung out into the alley. This is where I would meet my first official 7th grade boyfriend for some early morning make-out seshes, braces and all. A huge orange tree overproduced and shat out the most disgusting produce you’ve ever tasted in your life. The old wooden decking was a minefield for stubbed toes and splinters. I think a gang of wasps is running the show back there now. When mom left, dad pretty much let it go to shit. My dog died here. My family did too, in a way.
When I turned 18, I left my tiny town to get a degree in Los Angeles. When I turned 22, I left my college town to be an adult in San Diego. The idea of having a back yard is pretty much laughable now. I don’t think they exist here unless you’re made entirely of money and/or good fortune. Hopefully one day I'll figure out how to acquire a back yard so the children I'm also trying to figure out how to acquire can flee there to escape my wrath. Otherwise we'll just drive to the beach and call it San Diego's back yard. Close enough.