Me in my backyard this afternoon - peaceful bliss - 2010
Ask me what my absolute favorite pastime is and I'll tell you it is working in my backyard.
Sometimes it seems as if I've been working my whole life to achieve the peace and tranquility of working in my own back yard. I know to some this seems odd but I've always loved working in a yard.
Perhaps my overwhelming desire had to do with where I grew up. I spent most of my school years living in a second floor apartment. Our family's first apartment was on Washington Avenue in Downingtown, PA. It was a cockroach infested apartment that rented for $22 a month (this was in the Fifties.)
2nd Floor Front - our apartment on Washington Ave., Downingtown, PA - 2001
Our family sitting on the steps at Washington Avenue -our "backyard" - 1953
When I was eleven years old our family moved to a second floor apartment located over a office at a trailer manufacturing plant where my father worked on Boot Road, on the outskirts of Downingtown, PA. We paid no rent for that apartment. In lieu of paying a watchman for the plant, our family was the "watchman."
Our apartment on Boot Road, Downingtown - that's Mom on the "porch" -1956
When I was a senior in high school my parents brought three acres of land four miles outside of Downingtown and built a small ranch house. Our family of five with four males over 6'4" tall moved into that tiny ranch house. I remember well bumping and scraping my elbows on the stucco hallway walls walking to my first ever bedroom that was mine alone. I had been pestering my Mother for my own bedroom as long as I could remember. Since I was the oldest I felt that it was my due plus I didn't like sharing a bed with my two brothers. I wanted my own bed. To this day I sleep alone. That is the way I prefer it.
My parents home on Hopewell Road, Downingtown, PA - 2001
All during my growing up years I always envied my friends and schoolmates who had their own backyards. None of my friends realized what a treasure they had in having their very own back yards. I don't know of a one who liked to work in their back yard. Something really seemed wrong with this picture because I was the one who wanted my own piece of land. Now that our family finally had some land, I still wasn't satisfied. The land was my father's. He was a gardner and he called the shots. He only believed in planting vegetables. Whenever I suggested planting flowers or other plantings his usual response was "You can't eat that!"
I only lived on that parcel of land for a few months. After graduating from high school, and with a six month detour for a hernia operation and the subsequent staph infection that I got form the hospital, I joined the Army in January of 1963. No more back yard for me for years.
After leaving the Army in January of 1963, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA in.....you guessed it....an apartment. Actually, I moved into a room. I didn't even have my own bathroom. I had to share a bathroom with five other apartment/rooms in the old Victorian mansion that I lived in on Roup Street in Shadyside, Pittsburgh. You couldn't beat the rent at $8.00 a week but the bathroom accommodations sucked.
After three months of living in Pittsburgh, I has homesick for eastern Pennsylvania and Downingtown. I moved back to Downingtown and got an....you guessed it...apartment in Coatesville, PA. Still no backyard. I lived there for 2 1/2 years. Then I met Bill, my Life Partner. About six months after meeting Bill, I acceded to his wishes and moved in with him at his....you guess it....apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Still no backyard.
Bill and I lived at the Penn Manor Apartments for a few years then we moved to Philadelphia so I could be closer to my job at Girard Bank by City Hall in Philadelphia. We moved to ........Cheswick Square apartments on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, PA. Still no backyard but I did have a pool now. Progress.
Bill and I lived at Cheswick Square for a few years and moved when I decided that I wanted to partake of the night life in Philadelphia without the worry of driving plus I could walk to work. We bought a townhouse on Naudain Street, on the very edge of center city, Philadelphia. The row house was 16 feet wide and 50 feet long with a back yard! Finally. Actually, it wasn't much of a back yard. More like a postage stamp back yard. No grass. The surface of the backyard was patio slate with some small raised beds for flowers. But I finally had some space, limited as it was. In fact it wasn't enough space so Bill punched a hole in the roof and we had a roof deck with container pots. That worked somewhat but it still wasn't a back yard.
Our townhouse on Naudain Street in Philadelphia, PA - 1972
After eleven years I decided I had enough of the city life and we bought land near my parent's home in Downingtown. Six point eight acres. Now I had a yard. Actually, I didn't have a yard as much as I had a opening in the woods. But still, it was my (our) land. For twenty five years I purchased plants and shrubs and competed with the deer to see which plants would survive. The deer won.
Me and Bill's home on Crawford Road, Downingtown, PA - 2001
In 2006 I decided I had enough of our wooded paradise in Pennsylvania. As beautiful as it was I couldn't see how I could survive long range paying the ever escalating school and personal property taxes of Pennsylvania. I decided to realize my life long dream of living near the ocean, in a neighborhood, with a back yard. And that my friends is where I am now. It is wonderful.
Home - 2010