I remember our backyard was the meeting place for all the neighborhood kids. Every summer night, kids on our block, across the street and a block away would congregate in our sprawling backyard.
The yard had a big evergreen tree that looked like a giant Christmas tree. It separated the back yard from the front yard. I remember smelling the pine scent and occasionally feeling sticky sap on my fingers when I’d hide under the tree. At the back of the yard was a dog kennel which housed our black Labrador, Penny. Her kennel had a cement runway with a chain link fence around it. A dog house with a removable roof stood at the end of the runway. Next to the kennel was our small vegetable garden. There was enough room for my parents to plant a few rows of tomatoes, sweet corn and green beans. Next to the garden was our sand box, a John Deere tractor tire full of sand. On the other side of the sand box was a wooden, white washed playhouse. I imagined Tom Sawyer painting it with a coat of white paint. The playhouse had windows on each side which opened from the inside. Above the front door and just below the roof line was carved lattice trim. It looked like a cottage from a fairy tale. Our red and shiny swing set stood just a few steps from the playhouse. It had two swings with plastic seats and a metal slide. I remember reaching out with my hands and holding tight to the metal linked swing. Every time I went up and down I felt the air rush across my face.
The neighborhood kids set the boundaries for our games. It was between the evergreen tree, the swings, the playhouse, our driveway along the north side of the yard and the neighbor’s patio to the south. The grassy area in between made a perfect spot for kickball, freeze tag and other running games.
On any given night, the kids and I would huddle together and decide on who would be “it.” We had many rhymes/chants we’d sing to determine who was eliminated and every time we chanted the rhyme, it was narrowed down to the one who was “it.” I remember hearing all of us singing: Ecka, Becka, soda cracker, Ecka, Becka boo, Ecka Becka soda cracker, out goes you. Or Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
Every time we sang the bubblegum chant, my mouth would water and I could imagine tasting the sweet, pink bubblegum flavor.
As soon as someone was it, we’d begin playing our games. My favorite was Freeze Tag. I loved crawling under people’s legs and trying to “free” them without getting caught. I always liked the adventure and challenge of trying to beat the one who was “it”.
Occasionally when I’d run under legs, I could feel the cool, wet grass on my knees and legs. I’d jump up, run away in the nick of time and I‘d see fireflies blinking in the darkness. One time I got “frozen” and a girl accidently stepped on my foot. Ouch! That sure hurt! She had gotten too close in dodging the one chasing her.
On some nights, we’d change the variations of the games and play “TV” tag, “Food” tag or we’d come up with other categories. If you called out a name from one of the categories, then you were safe from being frozen.
We would also play Red Light, Green Light and Red Rover, Red Rover. Once, when I was on a Red Rover team, our whole team plugged our noses. We could smell Penny’s kennel and it meant that my dad needed to clean the cement runway with a shovel.
Shortly after this game, I heard a crack of thunder and saw flashes of light streak across the sky. Was a storm heading our way? We kept on playing, but I heard crickets chirping and a gust of wind rustle through the trees. I got caught up in the game and the storm’s warning signals were forgotten. We kept playing our games and running as if nothing had happened. Then another boom of thunder and before I could take another step, I got hit with raindrops that pelted from the dark sky. The wind blew harder and all of us screamed louder, protesting getting wet. The storm ended our game and everyone ran home before they got drenched. My brother and sister and I dashed toward the backdoor before getting soaked.
As soon as I dried off, I ran upstairs to our screened porch. The porch ran on two sides of the front of the house. Wrought iron beds with ornamental posts stretched out against the back walls away from the screens. My family slept out there in the summer. I stood looking out over the backyard surveying the threatening storm. The backyard got soaked. The rain poured down in buckets forming puddles on the driveway. The leaves on the trees rustled and booms of thunder cracked just above the roof. I always imagined giants bowling in the sky. As I left the porch to go back inside, I took one last glance at the backyard. By tomorrow night, the ground would be dry and ready for all of us to play our games again.
Now it’s your turn. Can you write about a favorite setting, an important person from your childhood or a memorable event? Add sensory details and description and you have material or ideas for your next story.