When I was a young mother, I admired the front lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs at the homes of my friends. While my husband and I tried to keep our yard neat, our four oldest children really enjoyed playing there. The neighbors’ children were always welcome, too, and added to the general disorder.
At the end of the day, it often looked like a war had been waged there, which was pretty accurate.
In addition to the toys and games scattered about, a large barren spot had been scraped near the front walk. It had started as just a little spot, probably where some weeds had been pulled. A certain little boy had discovered it, showed it to his brother and the rest was history. It grew to about 3 feet in diameter, and 3 or 4 inches deep. It was sometimes the race course for little Matchbox cars that our two sons and their friends loved. Sometimes it was a construction site, and they scraped more dirt and put in into the backs of little dump trucks.
After a rain, as the hole grew deeper, the boys bought out their little boats.
“Boys,” I said in desperation, “this is making our front yard look so bad. This game needs to go in the backyard.”
“But Mom,” said our youngest son, “this hole has the best dirt!”
I don’t know if that was true because dirt looked like dirt to me, but my husband intervened and said, “Look, when I was a little kid, I did the same thing in my folks’ yard. I know it’s a mess, but they’ll get tired of it. Then I’ll fill it in.”
So the hole, little cars, trucks and boats stayed for a long time. It was, after all, the “best dirt.”
Eventually, as my husband predicted, they did get tired of the big dirt hole, and moved on to sports and other interests. The games in the hole grew less and less. By the time our youngest son entered junior high, the hole had been filled in and grass was, at last, growing there.
Occasionally, when they saw younger children playing at those “dirt and car” games, they reminisced about the old hole and teased me about it.
One day, years later, when they were young men — one in medical school and the other in the Navy somewhere on the high seas — I happened to look out the window at sunset at our now very neat front yard. It looked so pretty and peaceful in the fading light. There was no trace of the barren dirt hole or the two little boys who had once played there.
The tears coursed down my face, and I realized that I would give anything just then to relive even a few minutes with our two little boys playing in the “best dirt.”
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