Friday, July 24, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Big Hole

I spent my early childhood on the Canadian west coast and I still consider that home for some reason, even though I haven't been back for over a decade. The combination of ocean, mountains, and trees is perfect; there's a reason the province boasts the slogan "Beautiful British Columbia." The only downside was that it rained a lot but, truthfully, I hardly even minded.

While it is true that it rains a lot there, it seemed normal to me. Wet is what weather was supposed to be. There was no such thing as an event being "rained out" because if we postponed anything for something as trivial as a little rain, nothing would ever happen. Recess, track and field day, ward picnics, trick-or-treating, fireworks, Christmas caroling, and hiking were all things that happened in the rain at one point or another.

Some rainy days were spent indoors, when the weather got too wild and crazy, but as a general rule every child owned a raincoat and a sturdy pair of rubber boots and would gladly play outside in the nearly constant drizzle. That isn't to say the sun never shines there--it does; but it seems to be overcast and rainy more often than not.

Our backyard was impressively swampy on the most sunniest of sunny days. When it rained, however, it morphed into the perfect backdrop for plastic dinosaurs to come to life. Swamp grass grew much more readily than any lawn seed that we tried planting, mossy rocks speckled the ground, our gutters collected rainwater and transformed it into dangerous waterfalls (at least for plastic dinosaurs), which in turn created turbid, rushing rivers and deep, muddy lakes. We even had a few ferns. I love ferns.

I don't think it's even possible to guess how many dinosaurs are lost in that little plot of land...or how many other toys, for that matter. At least, not after we caught Patrick throwing action figures down the storm drains. Pesky two-year-olds.

To their credit, my parents tried their best to tame our swamp of a backyard. I suppose it was their civic duty, living in a landscaped suburb, to do so. It bested them every time, though, which I was very glad of. I loved our backyard. It was a very popular play place because it was so unconventional. I couldn't see how it could be improved upon, although now that I think of all the mud we must have tracked into the house...

Our front yard was normal enough. There were bushes and trees and actual lawn. From the front, our house looked just like any other house on the block. Entering the backyard was like stepping into a time warp, though. Our backyard was magical.

One of my parents' beautification projects was creating a rock garden under the deck stairs. I believe part of the motivation for this was because they were hoping to eventually lay down some sod and our backyard was altogether too uneven and too rocky for such an undertaking, so every Saturday we would do some rock picking. The little kids would carry little rocks while the big kids and my parents would work at moving the bigger rocks under the stairs where we arranged them in a manner we hoped was at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing.

Sometimes the rocks were too big to be moved. My dad would then break them into smaller chunks with a shovel and then we'd cart them off to our ever-growing rock garden.

Stumbling upon one of these too-big rocks one day, my dad dug around for a while, trying to find out exactly how big the rock was so that we could heave it out of the ground and add it to our garden. He dug and dug and dug, never finding the "end" of the rock. It seemed to me that he dug all day long. Eventually he just started breaking off huge pieces of the rock and we'd tote those over and deposit them over by the rock garden.

He worked at that rock for several weeks, never finding the end of it. I remember my parents joking that they'd found the rest of the Canadian Shield, and it seemed like that could very well be the case. There was no end to this rock. We never got it out of the ground; instead all we ended up with a huge hole in our backyard, which slowly filled with muddy water every time it rained.

This provided no end of amusement, as I'm sure you can imagine. Our swings had never been left so still and vacant for so long.* What's a swing set compared to a gigantic hole?

My friends and I would dance around the hole and throw rocks and leaves and things into it, pretending all sorts of things. Rain dances were performed, pots of stew and cauldrons of magic potions were brewed, piles of slugs were sacrificed. There was a 2x6 stretched across the hole for some reason and we would make believe that was a pirate's plank or a suspended bridge or diving board or trampoline, although I'm quite positive we weren't supposed to do any of those things since they were all probably a little dangerous considering the pool of muddy water below us. We even would coax my friends' dog, Scruffy, across the plank.

Truthfully my parents probably warned us to stay far, far away from the hole and to leave it completely alone...but from all of my experience of raising children and from all the years I spent being a child myself, I can full-heartily attest that those warnings were most dutifully ignored, keeping inline with full childhood protocol.

Luckily no one ever fell into the hole and we only got caught playing around it a handful of times--it was too fascinating to stay away and playing around it was worth getting in trouble more than once for. Apparently. I had never seen a hole or rock so big, at least, not in my backyard.

Soon, though, the hole got filled back up and efforts of improving the backyard abandoned. We were only renting, anyway, and the impossible nature of the backyard was not officially our burden. I think we may have planted a few domestic-looking bushes back there after the rock incident, but those were half-hearted attempts at landscaping.

The backyard remained a lovely Jurassic-theme for the rest of the time we lived in that house, much to my parents' disappointment, I'm sure. But I loved it.

*Actually we may have gotten the swing set after the big hole...I don't remember.


  1. I had a big hole I liked playing with as a kid as well.

  2. No wonder I had to keep kids kept filling it up.
    Love ya

  3. I drove up Sutherland Street a couple weeks ago. All the London Maple trees on your old side of the street have been cut down. It made me sad.

    This, however, was lovely. Take care.