It was such a fantastic day; one that came at the end of such a fun month. Report card day. A milestone—not so much because of the report card—but because of what the day represented. The end of another school year, meaning summer was now stretching out before us.
My parents let my sister and I have a sleepover in our camping trailer with our friends. This sleepover was different because it wasn’t attached to a birthday party or having someone over on the weekend. This time we got to stay in the trailer all by ourselves (albeit steps from our back door) and just revel in the fact summer was now at our fingertips.
For elementary students, the last day of school was just a half day. There might be board games set around the room and usually a few tasks to finish tidying up. Then, just before noon, the report cards were distributed and the excitement of summer could officially begin.
Our friends headed home first to drop off their reports, pick up their stuff and then it was over to our place where we excitedly entered the trailer and carefully picked our spot for the night. Sleeping bags were rolled out and pillows put in place. And then there was a long, glorious afternoon ahead of us.
After some time at one of the swimming pools, we eagerly returned to our backyard. It was big enough for games and had just the right amount and variety of trees to play in, hide behind and take shelter from the sun if we needed to, although I don’t recall we did that very much. We were too focused on fun and the knowledge that this was just the start of many afternoons in our yard during a magical summer. My family continued that last day of school tradition right through high school. It was still a lot of fun, yet different in many ways. Summer jobs, added responsibilities, and feeling the need to be making plans seemed to take away from the carefree sense we had as younger children.
I have been thinking more and more about those endless hours in the backyard. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe I’m just taking time to be more reflective. Maybe it's seeing the images of people gathered on small balconies hosting all kinds of events from concerts to exercise classes, combined with the closure of parks for so many weeks. I have newfound appreciation for my backyard…outdoor space that is available to me whenever I want.
Apparently I'm not alone. The backyard is experiencing a resurgence. Play structures and trampolines are in high demand, and gardening is experiencing a rise in popularity not seen in quite some time. People plan on spending more time in their backyard and are putting in greater effort to make it fun, colourful and inviting.
While 70% of home buyers say a large backyard is an important feature, people aren't spending as much time in them as they thought they might. A couple of summers ago there was a massive power outage in a major city. A helicopter news crew saw that the loss of air conditioning seemed to force people out into their yards. The reporter, who had covered traffic activity and flown countless miles over the city for years, said he'd never seen people out in their backyards in those numbers. I wonder if they took stock of what they had been missing out on.
I am looking at my backyard with new eyes. It is big enough for games, has a great shade tree, and there are plenty of comfy chairs that have seen much conversation, hours of quiet reading, and days upon days of watching children go from paddling pools to slip 'n slides; swing sets to soccer drills. Truly special memories.
But backyards need to be more than square meters of nostalgia. They are vibrant, welcoming spaces beckoning to be filled with activity, beauty and wonderment that comes from sitting with nature and taking it all in. Whether it's lush lawn, a patio, deck, treehouse or garden patch, let's be sure that as we officially begin the summer season we not overlook what is literally right in our backyard. That's my outlook.