Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Vacant Lot

I’ve been thinking of TheVacant Lot. It sat next door to my childhood house.

The Vacant Lot was a long, luxurious hill. It rolled down with a bump in the middle for about 300 yards. Then it flattened out to the backyard and up again into the riverbank to touch the river. Still it was only known by one name, The Vacant Lot.

The winter hill was made for sledding. The whole neighborhood came round to share it. Everyone aimed for the bump in the middle on the way down. The bump was the ride. The bump was the show. Everyone watched the one going to see the light of day between the rider and the sled when they hit the bump, then hit the air, in the way that physics makes magic happen. We didn’t need a grown up or a teacher to tells to stand in line or take turns. The winter had our respect. That respect made its own rules.

The spring hill was purple with wild violets. It was like the fields of Texas bluebonnets or tulips in the Netherlands. It was so easy to imagine a royal procession on that purple carpet. Time was we made up stories all day about it. I dug up wild violets and moved them around so that there would more and more of them. I only picked them once−for my mother−and then I learned they lasted longer if I left them in the ground to be with each other.

The summer hill was allowed to overgrown and it filled with hollyhocks. Until my teens, those flowers were taller than I was and they had so many colors. Hollyhocks seemed such old fashioned flower. The stories changed from royal palaces to those of mansions where there were dress-up balls with flowing gowns and escorts from the cavalry. I learned somehow to make a dancer doll from a hollyhock bud, a flower, and a toothpick. I don’t know if someone showed me, or I just figured it out.

The fall hill was for running down and up. AND if we were lucky enough, someone’s parent would have bought a new refrigerator and we could have a refrigerator box to roll our way down that house-wide open space. Then, the bump was for avoiding. Yep, experience taught us to stay away from it when riding cardboard, especially cardboard boxes with no steering.

To date only 34 toys have made it into the Toy Hall of Fame. One is the cardboard box. I guess it would take too much persuasion to get the internal museum Advisory Committee comprised of curators, educators, and historians, that reviews submitted nominations and determines which toys meet the criteria for selection to consider inaugurating The Vacant Lot. That’s okay to. The Vacant Lot was always unassuming. I’m sure it doesn't want the attention.

In my neighborhood, the Vacant Lot already is in the Toy Hall of Fame.
−me strauss Letting me be


Betty said...

Dear Liz,
I came to you for pleasant distraction from what I'm going through right now, and sure enough, you are here, painting a vivid picture of a fantastic childhood memory. I remember this hill from a previous post of yours. I'd love to play on it right now, and I think I will.


Cheryl said...

And you lived right next door?

ME Strauss said...

Hi Betty,
I think I might just play o it with you, It's really a grand place to play any time of the year. That's why it belongs in the Toy Hall of Fame.

ME Strauss said...

Yeah Cheryl,
It was rather neat, though no one ever acted like they owned it. The Vacant Lot belonged to all of us. That was kind of the rule. :)

Mama Mouse said...

We had a Vacant Lot too ... but not nearly as wonderful as yours. However, it did serve the same purpose. I had my OWN, very private vacant lot too, right next door but it was not THE Vacant Lot. That was down about a block from my house. My own vacant lot was occupied by my dog whom I spent many happy hours with ... year round.

THE Vacant Lot was used for neighborhood baseball pickup games, winter games like Fox and Goose, snowball forts and snowball fights. And anything else conceivable. Sadly that lot is gone now, replaced by a brick house or three.

Your Vacant Lot is certainly a wonderful memory and a place to go and be a child again, even if only in your memory!

ME Strauss said...

Maybe we SHOULD start a petition to get THE VACANT LOT into the TOY HALL of FAME. It's as good as the cardboard box anyday!

Robert Bruce said...

I'll sign that petition.

My buddy Denny and I began digging in our Vacant Lot one day with the idea of getting to China... about four days in and seven feet down, my Dad saw it.

He was pissed (thinking that he'd be responsible for filling it in if the lot sold). But I could see the howling laughter in his eyes behind the anger.

This post makes me realize that he probably had a VL with a big hole in it somewhere as well...

Thanks Liz. This one's a killer.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Robert,
Thanks for that story. I bet your dad did have a Vacant Lot somewhere. I'm still laughing picturing it. I think you should write a poem about the event and the hole to China.

michaelm said...


I realized what it is that I love about your writing; you evoke incredibly strong and dormant memories. (and you give me ideas, thank you very much)
I really liked this line:"We didn’t need a grown up or a teacher to tells to stand in line or take turns. The winter had our respect. That respect made its own rules."
When I was a child it was the same way. We didn't need a bunch of parents telling us how to play; we just did it.
May all our "Vacant Lots" live on...


ME Strauss said...

Hi Michael,
Good morning!
It's wonderful how kids know the way to get along when the purpose is playing and just having fun.

What a nice thing to say that I give you memories. Thank you.