Columns

2018.01.10 Back-yard adventures

By DAVID GREEN

As much as I’m disappointed with my memory, I have to say that I’m impressed with it at times. On the other hand, what I’m remembering is so unimpressive that I shouldn’t actually be too impressed.

This morning, for example, I remembered urinating at a particular moment when I was a child. OK, not impressive, but what I like is a recollection of a feeling of excitement or something. 

No, that’s not the cause of excitement. The bathroom break was just an annoying interruption to what was going on outside in my back yard on a summer afternoon.

Jim and John Bryner were both over at my house on Cawley Road and we were playing some version of killing people in the back yard. My memory fails me here. Was it of the cowboys and Indians variety? Was it pre-Revolutionary War—maybe Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys? Was it World War II? And why did we never, ever play World War I?

I can still see myself standing at the toilet, probably with a toy gun in my hand, and needing to get back outside as quickly as I could. I could have been losing comrades during this interruption.

 The thing that surprises me is that I still recall the excitement of that day. It was a very special time and I’m not sure why. I was having so much fun with my friends. We were doing such an excellent job in our battle. I felt that I was running faster than I ever had in my life. It was a feeling that life just doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m impressed that I’m able to dredge this up from the muck of my past and at the same time, I don’t think it would so bad to drag that memory to the trash and Delete. Make room for fresher stuff. But what the heck. If it was one of the best days of my life, let’s leave it in place. It deserves the neurons that it’s occupying.

One of the great puzzles of life is why a particular memory suddenly makes an appearance. I don’t recall any thought leading up to the memory. And it wasn’t the battle that came to mind. It was nothing but the bathroom break, and then recalling the feeling of exhilaration surrounding the back yard play.

I don’t have an urge to replay my “best day.” If anything, I wish I could sit on the garage roof watching the action and listening to the yelling and battle strategy proclamations as the enemy advanced.

A lot of good memories are still locked away in my head regarding that back yard, events that transpired during various stages of my life. 

We moved to the big Cawley Road house when I was in first grade, but early years aren’t coming back too clearly. I remember what it was like to play in the big sand box and encounter something that a neighbor’s cat left behind. Very, very distressing.

I recall the time that Mr. Rupp was cleaning the septic tank and asked me to go in and get a loaf of bread to make sandwiches. I don’t recall if I understood his joke or if I actually went inside for bread.

There were so many games of wiffle ball played there. There were so many “buckeyes” collected from the ground of what was actually a massive horse chestnut tree (seven leaflets rather than five).

We were told that the tree grew on the old Cawley estate from a seed that came from Henry Clay’s property in Lexington, Ky. I loved that tree even though I couldn’t climb it. A tree unconquered. 

The large trunk was surrounded by a circle of soil held in place with stacks of rock about three feet tall. The rock was loaded with fossils and I’m sure that’s why I still pick up fossils today when I see something nice.

 My sister’s dog, Sam, running mad circles around the back yard. My Aunt Grace falling backwards when her chair was too close to the edge of the concrete around the swimming pool. Buying some silver and burying it in the line of spruce trees along the alley. Swinging from the tire swing. Mowing and mowing. Raking and raking. Going outside to check the wind vane on the Blanchard’s garage roof. Finding a nest of baby robins right where I would climb to get to our garage roof. Ringing the big dinner bell on the roof.

The memories are many and various. That back yard obviously played an important part of my young life. I wonder what’s going to pop up next.