When I was little, I used to spend a lot of time in the backyard of my family’s house. Then, when I was wee tall, it felt like a big garden, a place full of mysteries and things to be uncovered. I played with different bugs, chased butterflies, smashed snails (no one likes these hideous things eating our plants), dug holes and buried things. I occasionally tried to grow plants. Some worked out (snow peas, cherry tomatoes, and some didn’t (endless variety of flower seeds that I cannot even remember all their names). I rode my tricycle in ovals around it, failingly attempted to learn how to bike in it (it was too small), and horsed around with my brother and our super soakers. When Willie, my incredibly intelligent pet parakeet, was around for seven years, he used to sun, sing, and take little bird baths out there and keep me company. Once, he even escaped from his cage and chased a hummingbird. That yard is full of fond memories for me. It was like my happy place in a not so happy home. My grandma made that yard into a true garden filled with gladiolus, birds of paradise, Chinese new year pink blossoms, her very proud apple tree (which produced dry and tasteless apples, but at least it looked good), Asiatic lilies, dahlias, and other gorgeous plants.
Once she died, the garden died. The entire place went into disrepair because my mom didn’t have the time to maintain it, and my dad didn’t care to take care of it even though he talked about caring about it. Weeds overtook the blossoms, and the flowers gradually stopped blooming. My dad occasionally tried his hand at things like rhododendron, lilies, hybrid tea roses, and star jasmine, but it never really stuck. The place of calm and beauty that was once a part of that house was gone.
When I came back home this morning after an early morning flight, I went downstairs into the yard. It just looks worse and worse every time I go home: the fences bordering off neighbors are chipping and discolored. Piles and piles of dirt are everywhere. It’s weeds galore no matter where you look. What was once grass is now a bunch of yellowed, hay-like crunchy stuff. But there are some hints of life of things my dad has tried and successfully grown, such as rosemary, English lavender, and a single Double Delight hybrid tea rose shrub that is managing to survive despite having most of its leaves covered in some speckled black disease. There’s even a beautiful cymbidium orchid that is now blooming in the corner of the yard, away from what you’d see when you take a quick glance around. It still looks like hell, though. This is certainly no garden or paradise, and I’m certain if my grandma were to be reawakened from the dead to see the state of her yard, she’d probably drop dead on the spot.
It’s strange, though, to think that this yard used to feel so big to me, and now it feels so small. Yes, I’m bigger and obviously an adult now; decades have passed since I used to spend long hours out here. But the way I look at it is so different, everything from the size to the scale to even the way the apple tree and the fences look. It used to be so comforting, a mini escape. But now, it’s not happy anymore. It’s depressing and not even a fraction of what it used to be to me.
It’s like that Madonna song “This Used to Be My Playground,” with the chorus that goes:
This used to be my playground (used to be)
This used to be our pride and joy
This used to be the place we ran to
That no one in the world could dare destroy
This used to be our playground (used to be)
This used to be our childhood dream
This used to be the place we ran to
I wish you were standing here with me
It’s all been destroyed.