When Smartmom was a young mom, she fantasized about a house with a backyard. She believed that her children would be happier and healthier if they had outdoor space in which to run wild, a garden lush with homegrown vegetables and a playroom big enough for all their toys and even a ping-pong table.
Smartmom thought about this last night at her apartment building’s annual Fourth of July barbecue.
As usual, Mr. Kravitz set up a makeshift table with boards from the basement placed artfully on top of three garbage pails covered by an orange plastic table cloth.
Mr. Kravitz fired up the grill while neighbors brought wine, beer, and platters of meats, vegetables, and salads downstairs as if on cue and the serving table was filled with a potluck feast.
It was a hot night and Mr. Kravitz’s face was turning deep red as he turned an assortment of grilled lamb burgers, Hebrew National hot dogs, turkey burgers and corn.
By 7 pm, the front yard was jammed with an enthusiastic group of adults and children from the building and nearby buildings busily eating, drinking and talking.
Smartmom has been to so many of these barbecues. Not only has she lost count, they all blur together. The children sort of blur together, too.
In her mind’s eye, she can see a young Teen Spirit and his best friend who moved away standing by the Weber carefully wrapping Graham cracker sandwiches of marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate in Reynolds Wrap and tossing them into the fire.
In her mind’s eye, she can see the Oh So Feisty One and her best friend standing at the Weber carefully wrapping Graham cracker sandwiches of marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate in Reynolds Wrap and tossing them into the fire.
Last night, she watched the latest generation of young children standing at the Weber carefully wrapping Graham cracker sandwiches of marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate in Reynolds Wrap and tossing them into the fire.
She imagined it as a black and white movie — faces and hands dissolving together — symbolizing the passage of time and the continuation of childhood traditions and skills.
During the barbecue, Teen Spirit and a friend stopped by. He looked tall and handsome in a red-and-white-striped shirt and his grandfather’s wing tip shoes.
“Hey, do you want something to eat?” Smartmom asked hopefully.
“No, thanks. We just came from a barbecue and are on our way to another,” Teen Spirit said.
They disappeared into the apartment building. He has a busy and complex social schedule that takes him to other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In August, he will leave for college.
Smartmom felt a pang. She never gave her son a house with a backyard. This cement front yard was his yard, his childhood yard.
This is where he played Ninja Turtles, Pokemon, “Star Wars” and other imaginary superhero games. This is where he had stoop sales and birthday parties. This is where he swam in a green plastic pool on hot summer days. This is where learned to roast marshmallows and make ’Smores.
This patch of sidewalk on Third Street is the mise en scene of many of his childhood memories.
Smartmom watched as one of the current 5-year-olds bit into a ’Smore with joy. Later he, adorably, walked around offering mini marshmallows to the adults. Later still, she watched as went to the roof of the building next door to watch the fireworks with his parents.
This is his yard, his childhood yard. This is where he rides his little bicycle, his scooter, plays his imaginary games.
This is where his childhood will live forever.
The Oh So Feisty One was upstairs. She’s reached an age where she doesn’t want to participate in social activities that involve her parents and their friends. She chose to stay inside in the air-conditioned apartment to communicate with her friends on Facebook.
Smartmom thought back to the days when she was envious of those with lush backyards and large houses. With one child on his way to college, Smartmom has no desire to leave Third Street and her apartment — and she doesn’t need a backyard right now.
Besides, she’s got her perfect front yard on Third Street filled with a lifetime of memories.
Who could ask for anything more?