Beyond Backyards

Dec. 25, 2019
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Average Rating: 4.25
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When I was growing up in Austin I would hike the hills on the other side of my grandparents’ backyard fence. Along the trails I would sometimes find fossils. One was a sea snail shell as big as my mother’s fist. I carried that around for years in the same box that held a growing number of legos.

When I was growing up in Houston I felt like my step-father had come into a vast fortune because our townhouse had a second floor and my own bedroom window no longer looked out on a fence. Now I could see a strip mall from the window and felt very privileged to do so.

When I was growing up in California there was a mountain in the backyard. On the top of the mountain there was snow and I tried to imagine what it felt like, but I had never felt cold and so my imagination fell short, much like imagining what kissing a girl feels like.

We went back to Austin to clean out my grandparents’ house and found that the hills on the other side of the fence had been paved over with streets named after trees and packed with large houses like the serrated edge of a knife. I wondered how many fossils had been sealed off beneath and was angry at the people who’d buried all that treasure.

When I was growing up in Connecticut my backyard was a forest that I had to myself. In the summer, the forest was dark at noon and I would spend a good part of my hikes scraping off full-body cobwebs. In the winter the forest was blinding at noon and a few days after the snow I could still walk on top of it without breaking through.

When I was growing up in Pennsylvania I could no longer walk on top of the snow and no longer had to imagine what kissing a girl felt like. I had lost the sea snail fossil somewhere along the way and didn’t recognize it had gone missing until a high school buddy and I were talking in the backyard and he asked why I had a Texan accent when I was drunk.

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Lovely imagery
whatdoyouneed rated this work:

Jan. 10, 2020, 7 p.m.

My favorite line in the story was "We went back to Austin to clean out my grandparents’ house and found that the hills on the other side of the fence had been paved over with streets named after trees and packed with large houses like the serrated edge of a knife."
Also I loved how you used repetition to create a sort of connective tissue between all of the different places. Most of the piece doesn't seem overtly sad or nostalgic. Your narrator seems to have made peace with the inevitability of change, even if he does realize belatedly that things (like the sea snail fossil and something deeper and less tangible) do get lost in the transition.
I grew up mostly in one house but I've moved around quite a bit over the last couple of years, so I've been thinking a lot lately about the significance of place, and how much like the narrator's experience of Austin, places continue to change and after you've moved on and even if you return to that same physical location you can't quite return to the same place you remember. So let's say that like liorzoë I am a bit biased in the sense that this story speaks to me on a personal level. But a good story that finds the right person and the right time can be very impactful. I'd like to see what you do with longer pieces that can delve more into character or plot.

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Thanks! Check out my two other stories on this site 😊

Very promising!
liorzoë rated this work:

Jan. 7, 2020, 1:02 p.m.

So, I am sort of biased in my review, because I grew up all over the place, including Houston and LA. So I liked that aspect right away.
The line that stays with me the most is "but I had never felt cold" because yeah, if you've only lived in Texas and California that's very possible and it reminds me of the first time my brother felt cold in NY and he had no idea what was happening.
I like that you show the way someone who grows up all over sort of tries to be nostalgic, but it's hard when there's so much you're supposed to miss.
I really identified with this, you did a good job of portraying the feeling of making every place your home and then ending up with being a nomad with no real home.
Kind of ends with a feeling that it was cut off, but now that I think about it, that's sort of what it's like to up and move across the country/world every few years. So if that was intentional, great, and if not, it works!

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