My backyard is my sweet spot. At least now it is, but it wasn’t always. When I moved here more than nine years ago with my sweet Maylie in my belly, I loved everything about this house, except the backyard.
You see, while the width of my yard is as long as my house is wide, it only goes back like 40 feet and then drops off to a huge hill with a ton of trees that lead down to a railroad track — not exactly the place you want your babies to play. Sure, there was a cute, outdated deck but literally no space for all the fun things for kids, and really no options to make it anything else.
Or so I thought. But, guys, I totally underestimated the amount of space needed to sprinkle out all the joys of childhood.
When my babies were little, we started out with a hand-me-down cheap swing set — some swings and some rings — which we still have. And my kids have lived their best lives on it. I wasn’t sure it would even fit in my backyard, but we made it happen.
As time when on, my cousin’s kids outgrew their trampoline — again something I never imagined we would have enough space for out back — but she so willingly gifted to us. She even dropped it off and set it up for us. And somehow, we made room.
Between that and the swing set, it drew the crowds of the kids in the hood, and I sat on that rickety old deck watching them enjoy all of the swinging on that beat-down swing set and bouncing on that secondhand trampoline. So many giggles, and so much fun.
Then one night, while the kiddos were on the back deck examining bugs and who knows what else, Miss Maylie slipped through a board on the deck. Thankfully it was just a minor scratch, but the deck needed repairs.
So, now we have a two-toned deck — all the loose boards have been replaced — some are just stained brown like the original deck, and some are the color of unpainted two-by-fours. Regardless, it still stands to hold many weekend lunches and cookouts.
When I thought nothing more could fit in this yard, this year, we found a cheap pool on the marketplace — a rectangle, used, with a pump not strong enough to hook a pool vacuum up to suck the dirt out of the bottom but strong enough for the kids to get in, play and mix it around so it flows into the pump and allows us to flush it. Guess what, it is also a kid magnet. It draws all the babies in the hood, and not one cares about putting in the “work” of mixing it up so we can pump it out.
My backyard is appalling, and I haven’t even mentioned my shed on its last leg or the half cut-down stump in the middle of the yard. It is the hideous home of so many things that have been donated or purchased for cheap that we have squeezed into the smallest of areas. Somehow we always make it fit. It is a deck that needs ripped out and fully replaced, a swing set that shows its age, a trampoline that needs all the pads replaced and a completely thrown-together crapshoot.
But do you want to know what else it is?
It is a kid’s dream! It is the neighborhood spot for all the babies to come cool off, practice their jumps, swing for the sky and flat-out just be kids! Not one kid notices all the imperfections compacted into such a tight space. Instead, they all just soak in all the fun and love what it entails.
And when I sit on my mismatched deck and get to watch all the giggles, shouts of joy and love, I cannot help but think about how far this backyard has come.
Sure, at times, I have wished that I had way more space and money to provide all of these kiddos with more, but I have realized that it is not the amount of land you have or the money spent on all the things that actually provides more.
It is really as little as a tiny backyard, which seemed helpless and not enough. It’s the neighbors who walk over to join the fun and do not care that your back table is dirty, your deck is multicolored, your pool may have some dirt on the bottom, and you can’t let your kids swing too high on the swing set just in case.
It’s all the little things full of love that create all the big moments of childhood happiness — even if it is shoved into the tiniest of backyards — I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.