Thursday, May 16, 2013

Free Range

Everybody loves something about their home.  And there is a lot to fall in love with here in Stillwater.  Old Victorians with charming front porches line our street.  Vaulted ceilings.  Woodwork. River views. Hundred year old alcoves with little fountains and fish ponds. Seven years ago when we told our friends we were moving here, no doubt they pictured the quaint multi-colored turrets that poke up into our skyline. It is a magic little place to live; where stories of pioneer days and prohibition aren't too hard to envision in our very own backyard.  Yes, its true, I fell in love with the romanticism alive in this little valley and I dragged my beau out of the city and onto the North Hill. 

But not for the reasons you might think.

No Victorian.  No charming circus paint scheme.  No turrets or window seats.

Old?  Yes.

Charming? With years of work....maybe.

View?  Nope. And this was a good thing.

The six foot privacy fence all the way around the house meant FREEDOM. And I have to admit, we have savored the taste. Perhaps a little too much freedom, in retrospect. 

Because, this spring the fence came down and I'm pretty sure I'm on a county watchlist for child endangerment.

Its amazing the things that we let our kids do when we don't think anyone is looking.

Can I pee outside?  Yes.

Can I set up a homemade zip-line?  Yes

Bodypaint?  Why not?

But, can I eat, drink, slip and slide, hula hoop, play tag, dodge Nerf bullets, pitch baseballs, ride bikes....Naked? 

Yes. By all means....just stay inside the fence. 

Magic. A lot of sunscreen.  But Magic.

Like a little bubble of safety.  A visible break between the independent curiousity that accompanies all childhood and the expectations of a watching society. You can make mistakes here and it will be OK. No doubt it will be dirty and messy and LOUD, but OK.

Of course, this all started with I only had 2 little boys.  Toddlers with bright round tummies and bleached blond hair.  Digging in the mud and making waterslides for their Hotwheels out of old gutters.  Why get swimsuits?  Naked was easy.  A lot easier than those damn Swimmers.  And...we had the fence.

But, of course, they grow up.  Now there are 4 little blond heads ( well, one is pretty strawberry...) running around the same yard.  And this spring more than most, we are all ready to throw caution to the wind and get dirty out in the sunshine. Bring on the mud.  Bring on the sunscreen and water balloons. Limitless Band-aids and Icees. We have put in our time this MN winter, and we are eager to PLAY hard.

But, whoa there cowboy...... keep your pants on, literally. You are ten. And eight. And that's weird for our neighbors.  You know, the people that live in the houses next door to us?  I know that you have been trained for years to just strip off the mud and enjoy a nice air dry, but we don't want an officer to visit us this afternoon.

So mama hen says, : Go ahead, chickadees.  You still have free range of the exact same yard.  Go play and peck around in they mud.  Go scratch for treasures hiding in the bushes. Go eat your soggy Goldfish crackers in the shade of the willow.

But no.  They stay on the deck. Like I've cinched them into a tight jacket and its just not worth the effort to squirm free. Like I've clipped their little wings.

Adverse to any real physical labor, the boys would typically put up a good fight if assigned the "wheelbarrow bitch" or "raking monkey" of woodchips and leftover fence debris.  But, I'll tell you what, there's a little fire burning to get things done.  Like to build a new fence.

I'm thinking naked Frisbee isn't that far away. 

And all this time I thought they didn't understand boundaries.... 

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