Backyard magic

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Over a decade ago, back when I was in New York and the home and family that I wanted was all still a dream, I was talking to a colleague about how much I wanted a house with a yard someday. The only thing that I can remember about that conversation was my colleague telling me that she too remembered wanting one, only to find that once they had one they absolutely never used the yard. I vaguely recall wondering at the time if that would be true for me too; if perhaps this idea of spending time outdoors in a backyard (or front yard) oasis would just turn out to be an annoyance: yard work, insects, humidity, too much sun etc.

But it wasn’t true for us; I love having a yard so very much. Yeah it’s a lot of work, but it’s more than worth it. When we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in New York we were fortunate to have a balcony with a view of the Hudson River. That was our outdoor space, and we treasured it. Jonah still talks sometimes about walking to the coffee shop across the street to get muffins with Mama K, and eating them out on the balcony on lazy weekend mornings.

We never felt like we had the space to host though, and any sort of outdoor gathering with friends was completely out of the question. Our good friends always seemed to have more space (or less anxiety about hosting?) so we were always at their homes. We felt guilty about it, but having people in our tiny space just felt impossible. When we moved here, I started to think seriously about what it would be like to host more often, to return some of that energy and generosity even if not to the same people. I’ve always been anxious about hosting, but recently I felt very moved to do it. Although it’s not exactly Kristin’s thing, she gave me permission to host a solstice party and invite a number of families we’ve really grown to enjoy. While I wasn’t exactly planning a wedding I still felt proud of myself for pushing through my stress and worry and making it happen. A couple of families bailed out at the last minute, but in the end it was really wonderful. Looking around our yard and seeing a dozen kids in the fort, on the tree swing, in the sandbox, drawing with chalk in the driveway, adults playing bocce in the front yard, naked kids running through the sprinkler in the back: it was exactly what I’d hoped for, or maybe what I couldn’t even have pictured all those years ago in New York.

And then last night, a beautiful-weather Sunday night after a weekend that I wished could go on a bit longer, I told Kristin that she could head out to take care of some personal things and that I would take care of bedtime. I inflated the bounce house for the kids, pushed them on the swings, added new pieces of twine to the stakes and the tomato plants that are growing like crazy, and then decided that we should get into pajamas, brush teeth, read books, and then head back outside to catch fireflies. It’s summer, the solstice was just a few days ago, so why not?

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So between nine and ten o’clock that’s exactly what we did. Seeing these summer nights through their eyes is magic.

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Jonah would catch fireflies and place them gently in the bucket in the fort, and then call out to us that he had a “firefly petting zoo” that we were welcome to visit. All three kids darted around the yard every time they saw a flash, and I caught them and handed them over when Jude got frustrated.

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I love all of the magic that happens here, and I know that much of it comes from seeing opportunities and creating the right conditions for the moments to flourish. So I’m committed to saying yes and making it happen more often.

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