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Home-grown 'air pocket'

Jun 22, 2012 - By Carolyn B. Tyler

My little daycamp neighbors are enjoying it

I've gained roommates this week.

To be more exact, I've gained yardmates this week -- not of the "lockup" kind.

It started late last week when I noticed a daily, changing collection of pop cans, snack wrappers, and plastic toys under one of the big juniper trees in my front yard. Late husband-Bob and I had the junipers planted when we moved into this house 43 years ago, and they are giants now, dominating the yard and playing host to all sorts of birds and squirrels.

But now they are playing host to other sorts.

I try to keep the evergreens trimmed up far enough at the bottom that a little grass will grow and there is room to mow. Limbs grow up all directions, and on the shrub to the south, a nice cave-like area has formed.

Last Sunday, my neighbor to the south asked if I had seen the children from down the street playing there. I had to admit I hadn't seen them, but I had heard them, mostly when my dogs got excited by the activity. Steve said he'd asked them if it was OK with me if they played there and they admitted they hadn't asked. He suggested they do so.

Sure enough, they followed his suggestion on Monday.

A cute, curly-haired pre-teen boy came to the front door and politely engaged in the following conversation:

"You know your pine cone tree out there?"

"Yes."

"Well me and my friends found an air pocket in there and we wondered if we can play camp and make a fort there"

I liked his description of the cave-like area as an "air pocket" and gave them permission, with the understanding they'd keep the area clean and not leave trash behind when they were done playing.

Soon, happy voices could be heard from the tree-cave in my front yard and an assortment of bikes, soft drinks, plastic toys, sticks, and other gear could be seen as they came and went from their hide-out.

CNAs help me make transfers from my PowerChair to recliner, bed, etc., on Mondays. After driving up out front, they often sit in their car for a few minutes filling out paperwork for the day.

When Jessica came in that afternoon, she was laughing to herself and asked "Did you know you have campers out front?"

I told her I was aware, enjoyed having the kids around, and that we had an agreement that they'd keep the area neat and orderly.

"Oh, I know," she said.

She then went on to recount how, as she sat in her car filling out the paperwork, there was a tap on her car window.

She rolled the window down and the same curly-haired boy who had come to my door earlier in the day, asked her, "Is there a problem?"

She told him, "No, I don't have a problem. Do you have a problem?"

"No," he said, "but I thought you should know we talked to Carolyn, and we can play there if we pick up our trash."

Can't you imagine what he thought when the lady in a uniform drove up and started writing out papers right in front of their "air pocket?"

He and his friends must have thought they were busted by the law, or such, and he was hastening to make it right.

All was well that ended well, and we all got a laugh out of it.

And, for the record, the area has been cleaned up every evening before the neighborhood youngsters go in for the night.

I had a similar hideout in Nebraska when I was a similar age -- snug in the overhang of the neighbor's spirea hedge. From that vantage I played all sorts of army games, cowboys, and other roles of the imagination. I was fortunate to have a weeping willow tree adjacent to climb for a lookout from my fort.

My juniper tree isn't climbable, but I'm glad to have the yardmates.

I figure anybody who can find an "air pocket" just up the street in Wyoming summer had better enjoy it while they are young.

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