This is the first time I’ve ever lived in a house with a small backyard. Growing up my yard was huge. Next to my yard was a big field and beyond my front yard, at the bottom of the hill, was a big garden that belonged to my grandparents. My backyard was bordered by stone walls and beyond them was forest and eventually Mill Hill.
Mill Hill was where, as kids, we went to hike, sled, and goof around. It was owned by someone – don’t know who, but they had cows that would graze in the far pastures that we could see from the top of the largest hill.
Mill Hill was unusual because it was two hills that looked like big roller coaster hills. After climbing through the barbed wire fence at the “valley” part of the hills, we had to choose which hill to run up first. If there was a group of us, some kids would go one way and some the other. I usually chose the right hill because it was smaller with less to see and saved the other, taller one, for last.
The right hill sloped steeply down to the road where the mill was. We could also see the river that wound around under the bridge. That hill also held a couple of wells. They were just covers elevated off the ground a bit and my father had warned us always to stay away from them.
Next, I’d run down the hill and up the other side. Usually there was water (or ice in winter) at the bottom in the valley area so I was careful to avoid that. Then the climb up the left hill to the top where a grand view awaited. The far side of that hill had a long, gentler slope that was dotted with rocks and a few trees. One of the trees was a chestnut tree and once we found an animal trap under it!
I loved to visit Mill Hill. It was freedom to do what I wanted and sometimes I’d go there alone with my dog just to enjoy the peace and quiet and dream about my future and long to grow up. I also dreamed of bringing my own kids up there to see the place that had meant so much to me as a child.
But, my parents divorced and the house was sold so there was no homestead to go back to and I don’t know what Mill Hill looks like today. I’m sure I don’t want to know.
My own backyard now is very tiny with a drop off into the woods behind. I feel sorry for kids growing up these days without fields to run through, and hills to climb in their own backyards. Even if they are lucky enough to live in a spacious place, they no doubt spend too much of their time indoors.
I’m older now and a small backyard to take care of sounds very manageable, but a part of me wishes I could look outback past a large expanse of grass and view the stone wall with woods beyond, beckoning me to take a walk.
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