Vacant Lots and Back Yards

As a child, we spent lots of time thinking about what we would like to be when we would grow up.  Living in America slants our dreams somewhat.  We are expected to grow up, go to college, get a good job and make a good living.  The American dream , as it were, nearly always involved financial freedom and getting that can become the goal of life from a young child.  We were no different.

There were some kids who seemed to always do well in school who everyone thought would be instant successes.  There were kids who were great at sports and everyone thought they’d become great stars on a field or a court (and some did).  Then there were kids like us who had the dreams and that’s as far as it went.  Somewhere in the back of our minds was the truth that we were just average and probably would end up that way.

Our dreams came true in the annuls of great plays in the vacant lot next to our house and in our back yards.  In those places, we were the stars.  Baseball and football were the normal sports.  Basketball always came in third.  Mostly because none of us had goals in our yard, but nearly all of us owned and football and baseball equipment.

The games would always begin with the very awkward choosing of teams process.  Two unlucky guys would be chosen to take turns picking the kids in the group.  Most of the time, someone would get their feelings hurt.  Many times the last kid to be picked would find himself being argued over–not to be picked, but to try to get the other team to pick him.  What a self-esteem boost that was!!  The team who picked first, usually had to be the visiting team, or receive the ball last.

Our playbook existed in our heads and were always drawn out on our hands in the huddle as we made up the play–right then and there.  You could hear the quarterback’s strategy, “You go down the line ten steps and cross.”  “I’ll fake the hand off, and throw the ball to the guy going long.”  We were the greatest of all time–in our own minds.  When someone would make a great catch or tackle the guy, or hit the home run, that play would be the talk of the week.

It’s strange how I can remember actual plays we ran.  I can remember times when I got hurt.   I remember taking an elbow in the eye and it swelled so much, I could not see out of that eye.  I remember us doing things like sliding toward the street when cars were coming just to try and get the driver to swerve to miss us.  It’s a wonder we are still alive today.  I can remember making a throw to win games.  We practiced this stuff and got pretty good at it.  We coached ourselves, made up our own rules, and I believe that much of what we learned helped prepare us for a few decisions later in life.  We had no parents involved, so we had to learn on our own to get along and participate with one  another in a good way.

One specific event happened in our back yard that I will never forget.  We were playing football one day and one of the guys punted the ball.  It was a pretty good punt too, because it was high enough to hit the power lines.  When it did, there was a loud BOOM!  You’ve never seen a bunch of boys run any faster.  The kid who did it thought he had blown up the neighborhood.  Neighbors were coming out to see what had happened.  As you can imagine, we did not play there for a while!

These are just a few of my childhood memories about sports and dreams of a very young man.  I was very blessed to have had this kind of childhood.  We stay out till mom called us home from the vacant lot and the back yards of fame.  What a great life!!  That vacant lot still exists today.  My mom lives in the same house we did then.  The lot is much smaller now than it was then.  The cars still zoom by.  And sometimes when I drive by, I think of those days when we were so young.  It seems like yesterday.  I’d better quit now before I begin to get teary-eyed.

Thanks for reading.

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4 responses to “Vacant Lots and Back Yards

  • Greg England

    Amazing how independent we were, and yet how many of our parents knew everything going on in our lives, who we were with, where we were … everything! But we were left to fend for ourselves and our street sports were great times! I was never much at baseball or football … never understood what they meant when they said, “It’s 2nd and five,” or whatever. I just thought they were putting random numbers together! So I was always that last guy to be picked in football. But we just loved hanging out together.

    Brought back some good memories, Keith. Thanks for the new post. Now get back to work!! 🙂

  • Ellen

    Loved reading this. About time you wrote something else. 🙂 Brought back a few good memories of my own.

  • Brenda

    Don’t wait so long about writing the next phase. Good stuff.

  • Meowmix

    Your comment that the lot is much smaller now reminded me of a trip I made a few years ago to my home town for the 4th of July picnic. I remembered it as HUGE. 10s of 1000s of people. A longggg parade. Whole town shut down for it. As you can imagine, the whole thing was much smaller than it was when I was a kid! 🙂

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