My Family (a long time ago)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Year of the Dandelion

As I’ve been driving around the last few weeks I couldn’t help but notice that there are a lot of dandelions this year. It seems that everywhere I went I saw lots of the bright yellow weeds. They sure do look nice, adding a nice touch of color to the greenness that is finally here. The last week or so, I’ve seen quite a few of the little white puffballs that hope to some day be full-fledged dandelions. Some of my neighbors’ yards have been inundated with them this year, whereas in past years they had very few. I have them coming up in places that never had them before. The Chinese have designated 2011 as the year of the Rabbit, but I have dubbed this year the year of the Dandelion.

I’m pretty sure that as kids, all of us picked up the white puffballs, blew as hard as we could and then watched all the little individual pieces go flying every which way. It was always fun to do it on a bit of a breezy day and watch them go up, up and away to who-knows-where. Now that I own a house and have a decent lawn, I understand why some of my neighbors got angry at us as kids for spreading the dandelions. Of course, we didn’t know that was what we were doing, we were just having fun. I’m also pretty sure that as kids, we all picked some “pretty yellow flowers” for Mom. When I was growing up, we always had dandelions in my yard and we didn’t care.

We actually played in our yard. We played football in the back yard until we got an above ground pool, which pretty much messed up our field. The pool also messed up softball. We had a pretty good size field for a bunch of young ball players and we even ran the bases. I’m not sure how many windows we broke, but I do remember a few getting hit by a foul back or an errant throw. We had this wooden bat, Old Betsy I think we called it, that was too big and heavy for most of us, although we all tried to use it. After swinging and missing and practically being dragged down by Old Betsy’s weight, we’d get a regular bat and take our cuts with that one. Funny, I don’t think we had a name for the other bats, just Old Betsy. We had two big Weeping Willow trees in the back yard that were in fair ground in the “outfield” and the rule was that you could catch the ball out of the trees and the batter would be out. I don’t think I ever caught one out of the trees (and probably never hit a ball into the trees), but I do remember my older brothers and some of their friends doing it. They’d get under the tree, go this way and that, and then lunge for the ball as it came through the lower branches, occasionally snagging it before it hit the ground.

Our front yard was where we spent a lot of our summer days, playing wiffle ball for hours. We played with as many people as were available, even if it was just a game of one-on-one. For the most part, the rules were simple: we hit from the opposite side of the street, while the pitcher was on the same side as our yard; you got one swing, if it was a foul or a miss, you were out; if the ball hit the street or sidewalk before reaching the grass in our yard, you were out; a ball that reached the grass in the air was a single; a ball the reached the bushes up near the house in the air was a double; a ball off the trim of the roof was a triple; a ball between our house and the neighbor’s house, or in the gap as we called it, was also a triple; a ball on the roof was a home run; a ball that went over the fence in the gap was also a home run. We had a few different rules for larger games, but those were basically it.

We played for a while, occasionally running around the back of the house for a quick drink from the hose, which sometimes elicited a “Turn the hose off!” shout from Mom. She knew the quick drink could turn into an hour long cool off shower, or worse, a fight for the hose. Sometimes we took a break from the action, got a pitcher of water and some cups, and sat in the shade for a bit as we drank our water. If we were really lucky, we got a pitcher of Kool-Aid or Zarex to share. After a short break, we were back to the games for a while longer until someone had to leave or we just got sick of playing wiffle ball, whichever came first. With all those wiffle ball games going on in our yard, we didn’t have a Show Place yard. Yes, we had grass, but our yard looked like a yard where kids played. We had no “Keep off the Grass” signs, real or imagined, and there were a few bare spots due to the games.

I loved my yard as a kid because it wasn’t something that was off limits to me and my friends. It was a football field, a softball field and a wiffle ball park. We played tag and catch and ran around the yard. Sometimes we just sat under the tree in the front yard, talked and looked ahead to the future when we’d be old enough to…fill in the blank. I miss those days, when even just one friend meant a wiffle ball game and when a lush green lawn with no dandelions meant nothing to us unless we were playing on it. The grass may have been greener on the other side, but in color only. As far as I’m concerned, we had the nicest yard in the neighborhood.

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