When I was a kid, the next-backyard neighbor was an elderly man. His house was very big and his extensive backyard was more undeveloped prairie than anything else. It was an absolutely beautiful place, all fancy and mansion-y in front but wild in the back. The owner didn’t seem to do much but sit around the prairie and pet his cats. I don’t remember if he smoked but a classic pipe would have completed the impression. I know all this because I climbed up the fence to look at his yard every day for a summer. I didn’t do that to the next-door neighbor because the fence on that side was harder to climb.
I got into the habit of chatting with this old neighbor. I don’t know how it happened but it definitely had something to do with sticking my head over the fence. Right now, old people make me nervous but as a kid, even the grumpy-looking ones didn’t stop me from making my pitches. Anyway, I don’t remember all we talked about but I know that I really enjoyed sticking my head over. I know that we talked about how I wanted to have a horse someday and how his cats liked to hunt gophers or whatever critters populated his yard. I think I mentioned something about birds of prey once because I remember him telling me that if I got up early enough and walked down the avenue, I’d see turkey vultures roosting (turkey vultures are buzzards). I actually didn’t know what turkey vultures looked like but I figured it out very easily since they were the only bald birds in town besides the wild turkeys, which I hadn’t seen yet, and they were riding thermals everywhere if a person knew to look.
The old man moved away and now the yard is part lawn, part pool, and part tennis court or basketball court or some kind of hybrid because the people who moved in were a sports coach and his son(s?). I mean, the neighbor had started doing a little DIY flower terrace that was kind of cute, hand-watered and not irrigated, but it wasn’t anything drastic. I feel a little sad every time I see a peek of the yard from our deck. Our own yard underwent some changes that I’d rather do without, too. I know that my yard was ridiculous and the most likely place in the neighborhood to harbour snakes, with the 4 foot tall ‘lawn’ and giant flowering weeds, but as a kid who read Secret Garden, I liked the craziness. I ran around swinging giant fruit tree branches and trying to teach myself to do a flying side kick like a ninja. Oh, man, those were the days.
I miss my childhood. I said what I wanted without tripping over my own tongue and even if I did, it didn’t really matter. I think I’m predisposed to being a tad more aphasic than most people since I have trouble holding conversation, especially in my primary language English (Chinese is OK because I take the second to think out what I say). But, anyway, I feel like we need some more Dennis and Mr. Wilson and less, I don’t know, email and facebook.