Here’s the thing. Your home isn’t just property. It’s a staging ground for your memories. And it’s memories that help you define your life, and the lives of those in your world who have memories of their own. Needless to say, your home and your outdoor living space is important to who you are, particularly in summertime. I know that’s true in my case.
Aunt Marge’s house
When I was very young – like pre-kindergarten to the Big K itself – my parents and I moved in with my Great Aunt Marge. They rented out the top floor of the house, while Aunt Marge lived in the basement suite. One of the reasons my parents made this move, being young and without the resources at the time to buy their own house, was that Aunt Marge had a beautiful backyard big enough for me to play in, and I guess for them to play in, too.
This was the early 1970s, when post-war homes were the norm in suburban neighborhoods. This usually meant a smaller home. The average square footage for a home built from the late ’40s and into the 1960s was from 900-1100 square feet. That’s pretty small by today’s standards. But, backyards were often bigger to make up for it, with more traffic from indoors to outdoors and back again in terms of human activities. Assumptions were different when it came to interacting with an outdoor property. For instance, it was assumed that you’d grow your own food. And that feature was certainly in place at Aunt Marge’s House.
Raspberries warmed by the sun
Aunt Marge had an expansive garden right at the back of her property, along with one big shade tree, and a few peach and pear trees, too. Lining the extreme back was a row of raspberry bushes. I used to go back there and collect raspberries, my shins and forearms scratched by the spiny vines of the raspberry bushes, and always avoiding the bees and wasps that liked them as much as I did.
Raspberries in my hand (and eventually in my mouth), warmed by the sun, is one of my most enduring childhood memories. Even today, the taste of raspberries in general activates my memories of those hazy childhood days, rooting around on my own in Aunt Marge’s raspberry patch, eating my fill, reaching through the vines for the biggest and juiciest. The backyard was a place for adventuring, for imagination, and exploration on my own. And it would be a place to connect with family, too.
Connecting with family
Another thing that characterized my time living at Aunt Marge’s is that she was supremely sociable. That meant having a lot of family around. I am the son of immigrants. My mum was born in England. My Dad was born and raised in Barbados. So was my Great Aunt Marge. In Caribbean culture, having people around and sharing meals in large gatherings as often as possible is the norm. This is even more so than in British families as represented by my Mum’s side, where the Sunday roast at the dining room table is more the thing, and of which I also have fond memories.
And like most immigrant families, we had a lot of relatives living within fairly close proximity in order to support each other; my Aunt and Uncle, my cousins, and even second cousins, plus friends of the family also from Bajan extraction. For those of you who are not fans of Rhianna, Bajan is how you describe someone or something from Barbados; now you know.
Anyway, the backyard was a staging ground for this interaction, with lawn chairs in a circle, food on laps, us children running to and fro, calypso music winding its way from inside the house and into the backyard, and lots of chat in melodically earthy Bajan accents. Once again, it was more than just a piece of property for us. It was the place where we established our connections with each other, and with our shared cultural roots as family. It was my early childhood.
Establishing what home feels like
What does home feel like to you? Well, I’m guessing that like me, your feelings around what home feels like (or should feel like) is connected with some of your earliest memories with your family. That’s why backyards, and really any part of your home should be thought of as more than just the sum of their parts. Each place we live plays a part in shaping our identities, too.
What are some of your early memories of home, comfort, and family? How have they informed how your outdoor living space, or any space in your home, has been arranged?
Tell us all about it in the comments section!