Big and Bendy

We rent. If I owned this house, I might not change much, but I think I would put up a fence around the backyard. Not to keep people out of my yard. But to keep Joy from exploring beyond the boundaries of the property.

Aesthetically, my yard is pleasing—in part because there is no fence on either side. Looking east, I have unobstructed views of my neighbor’s fire pit with the pretty string lights around the seating area. On the other side of the yard, I can see my western neighbor’s gorgeous trees and lawn and plants—not to mention the beautiful mansion of a house they lovingly tend to.

But my backyard is 60 feet from Big Bend, four lanes of big bendy road that snakes from Clayton through Maplewood, Shrewsbury, Webster, Crestwood, Oakland, Kirkwood, Twin Oaks, and Ballwin. Ten thousand cars a day travel 40 miles per hour past my tiny front yard. (We never play in the front yard. Ever.)

A few days ago, we went out to play in the backyard. Joy was soon bored with the wading pool and the water table. She wanted to run on the concrete driveway, which at that time of day was easily over 115 degrees. I chased Joy with the water hose, spraying the concrete around her bare feet so that every step she made was on cool, wet pavement. Joy giggled the entire time, certain it was a game. I’m sure I looked silly, but I couldn’t bear to have her feet burned for one second by the sun-soaked pavement.

But the pool and the sun and the heat and the bees are not the danger. The danger is Big Bend. Deb and I are hypervigilant when outside with Joy. No phone calls or checking email. No talking to neighbors. No trimming the hedge. Just. Watch. Joy. Because 60 feet from the backyard is a real-life game of Frogger.

Almost every day, Joy and I go to the park. I put Joy in the bike trailer and I pedal three blocks to Sanders Park. I unbuckle my girl and let her run through the manicured grounds, where the hazards are mosquito bites, dog poo, skinned knees, and sunburn.

Nap time.

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