Why Backyards Are Magic

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A few days ago I stopped at my parents’ house to say hello as I was running errands on a weekday afternoon. I entered through the back door and found four little people (3 of my nieces and 1 nephew) playing, yelling, and laughing in the back patio. A regular occurrence as my parents who have been retired for many years babysit lots of my nieces and nephews during the week. The kids turned to notice me and asked a series of questions: what I was doing there? where was my husband? Did I bring my dogs? The interrogation was quick once it was clear there was nothing interesting about my visit (i.e.: no fun human jungle gym of a husband for them to climb on and/or no furry animals they could chase). As I made my way into the house, they each yelled a series random declarations in my direction at the same time including:  

  • “I’m 1!”
  • “I’m swinging!”
  • “We made a mess!”
  • “I don’t have shoes!”

On my way into the house and just a few feet from the play area, I passed a table. It was covered by a crooked tablecloth, surrounded by out of place chairs, and topped with four partially eaten bowls of sopa de fideo. There were scattered toys laying on the floor next to it. Laid out on the orange tiles as if it were making a path through the doors and back out on the cement patio where the little ones were playing, giggling, jumping, and laughing. Four little people in a backyard relaxed, full of joy, and a great time. Running around things, climbing on things, and making memories.  

I sat in the kitchen chatting with my parents and catching up on life and adult things. Every few minutes our conversations would fade out. The sound of children’s giggles and the percussion of little feet running around the kitchen table would fade in. It was beautiful to notice all the magic that was taking place as I sat and observed what was happening in the house, between my parents and the kids, and between the kids themselves. It was the magic of being taken care of by your abuelos. The magic of being able to grow up having your primos and primas as your childhood friends. A magic that is invisible to those who see it as just part of their day. I had witnessed this magic many times before at family gatherings held at my parents’ house, the home where I grew up. Yet, I had never noticed and fully appreciated it until that moment when I saw myself in it.

I felt that way when I played in that same backyard as a child. Thirty years ago that backyard was a source of daily magic. The magic of having that lovingly prepared bowl of sopita de fideo on the table waiting for me to eat for lunch. The magic of being able to spend hours playing in that tiny backyard and never feeling time go by. The magic of being able to use your imagination to make a game out of anything you could find.

I remembered how we once found this long white dress in my mom’s storage closet one summer. It was an old floor length first communion dress that belonged to one of my older sisters. Me, my sister, and Crystal, one of my childhood friends, used it to play Little House on the Prairie. We’d fight over who got to wear the dress, put braids in our hair, and be Laura Ingalls. All of us always wanted to be Laura. The other characters we ok too but no one was as fun as Laura. Mary was older and less playful (spoiler alter: eventually goes also blind which is quite the acting challenge for a child to embody), Carrie was the little sister on the show and didn’t talk, and we never had a boy to be Albert. We’d pretend that my parent’s backyard was Walnut Grove.


Source: http://littlehouseontheprairie.com

Every morning we’d watch the reruns on television. Then we would take to the backyard for the rest of the day to act out the plots of our favorite stories for hours. Taking turns wearing the long dress or trying to find suitable costumes in my mom’s closet that could give us the old school prairie look. Making bonnets out of towels or pillowcases. Whatever we could find. It got us in trouble since we kept getting my mom’s towels and linens dirty. But it was magical.

Watching my nieces and nephew that afternoon brought me back to that all that magic. To its beauty and simplicity. I can’t remember the last time I felt that kind of magic as an adult. I sat for a while there just watching it all unfold. Four kids, one tiny backyard, and endless amounts moments full of fun and mischief being created. Moments full of urgency from all the fun that needs to be had. I noticed how small this yard looked to me now that I am an adult. The same space that felt so big and infinite when I was a kid. A space I would spend hours in having the time of my life. Imagining things. Acting things out. Being creative and joyful and playful. That is what I saw my nieces and nephews doing now. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt those feelings so freely as an adult.

It was beautiful to see that so much has changed in my life and yet some things are the same. Sopita de fideo is still the best childhood comfort food there is. My parents’ backyard is still as full of possibility and fun for little people as it was for me when I was a kid. It is a place reminds me of where I am from, how far I have come, and what my family’s legacy is. And that afternoon it was a place where my nieces and nephews reminded me of the importance that play, joy, and creativity have in making memories. It was a lesson I needed to remember in the midst of challenging times when I let the pressures of being an adult get the best of me. A lesson that many adults forget once jobs and stress and other life things get in the way.

So this week, I will be taking my nieces’ and nephew’s lead to play, be joyous, and be creative. I will make some fun memories in their honor. I may also make another big batch of my mom’s sopita de fideo to help it along. I invite you all to do the same. If any of you want my mom’s sopita de fideo recipe let me know. I will be glad to share it. Here’s to making memories.

Thanks for reading!



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