The Old Backyard

Jeannette Stacey  |  3 min read

I don’t remember exactly what it was that drove me out the door that day. I know that whatever it was that had upset me, it had to do with my father—but it’s strange, I can’t be more specific than that while maintaining sincerity. If not directly related to the loss, my response was at the very least brought on by the vulnerability I couldn’t help but feel—the vulnerability I denied. Something had upset me, and at that point during my life it didn’t take much to strike a nerve. Whatever it was that had been said, whoever it was that had said it, it had pushed me beyond the point of tolerance—it had guided my hands to that stiff metal handle that locked the back door and brought my body weight crashing in opposition to the sturdy pane of glass. It seemed as if nothing could move that door then, especially not in the cold of winter. Something stuck to the track and slowed its motion. There was always some sort of friction when you tried to open that door, as if the house wanted to keep you indoors, something I tended to do on my own at that point.

Since then, almost four years later, the door has been replaced. It now opens with ease—almost too much. I’m still in the habit of tugging on the handle with all of my might to feel that cold blast of air. And I can still remember the stab of discomfort as the once cold and unforgiving metal, now replaced with an ergonomic plastic grip, dug into my hands. I recall how, after finally parting the lips of the door, I stepped into the open air and onto the porch. The porch which was, at that point, still a tattered shade of white. Paint peeled from the bowed wooden planks and the railings sagged under the weight of nature’s burdens. Now, almost four years later, the porch has been repainted a disgusting shade of tan and one of the weaker railings has detached itself from the porch entirely. My mother picked the color—strangers came to cover up a memory with a fresh coat of paint. We have saved the board of the railing, perhaps with the intention of fixing it someday. 

That winter, void of snow, left me feeling hollow. The porch took its wear and tear every year, showed the scars of its perpetual unprotected existence, but I had never felt so exposed until then. The air was a bitter cold, and I recall that I had neglected to wear a jacket of any kind. But I wasn’t about to go back inside, where I would be spoken down to in that soft tone that an elder assumes when talking to another, one which that I have always despised. No, I needed to be alone.

I remember the woods in my backyard were different then. The small lawn that rested before the woods was filled with dead clumps of grass and dirt and poorly tended—where stumps from storm damage and woodcutters now rest, trees once stood tall. I remember sitting on the swings in our backyard then, looking up, and finding faces in the twisted bark of the trees. Each burl was a different expression, each twist in the bark a different wrinkle.