When we moved here the back most of our yard was overgrown with bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard. With rental equipment and hard work, Barry turned most of it into a beautiful yard. We left the last 50 feet or so over to the weeds.Somehow, I’m not sure exactly how, the neighbor kids all started coming over. They raked paths through the piles of leaves and sticks. Each kid marked out their own territory. Those little territories became “houses,” those houses sprouted rooms. There was a bank, a mayor, an army…
Over the past three years the little town they named Croker Heights has evolved. The houses are bigger. Kids have moved in and out from sharing with each other. They’ve gone from pinecone money to hand drawn paper money to rocks. They’re feeling the effects of urban sprawl as the roads get narrower and the houses get bigger. Sometimes they are searching for dinosaurs, sometimes they are entymologist-match-makers putting male/ female pairs of crickets in jars to see if they’ll mate (they usually do!), sometimes they are holding elections or training the army. Lately they’ve been geologists– breaking rocks and looking up in books what kind they are.
As fall approaches I am really coming to the realization that this is our last summer here. I am so thankful for these neighborhood kids. I’m so glad that we let them have free reign back there behind the shed. I’m thankful my kids have had a magical land all their own. I’m amazed at their creativity, their collaboration, cooperation, their respect for each other’s “property,” the conflicts they’ve resolved… for the memories they’ve made. My kids have learned so much– this has really been a crucial part of their education.
The amazing thing is that it all happened on its own. I just stood back with band aids and drinks of water and let them be. Having all different ages (they now range from 15 to 3) has created such a great dynamic of leadership, service, patience, aspiration. It is something I have dreamed and hoped my kids could experience. And it seems in their very nature to create it.