Backyards: a shelter from the hurting

Nov. 8, 2022, 11:07 p.m.

Parts of our lives exist and will have only existed in our backyards.

I often look back at my backyard as the last place that holds the last of my innocence. The times before I knew of the horrors of the world, before I cared about politics, before I cared about boys and kissed them and before any had ever hurt me. Because my backyard is where I ate ice cream and it melted onto my hands, residue as sticky as Elmer’s glue. It’s where I played pretend and wasn’t myself, but became myself, falling in love with stories and child-like wonder. The backyard is my souvenir of the past, only less cheaply made.

One thing I don’t fully understand is when do we start seeing ourselves and each other outside of our homes? When do we stop being little nuggets running around and waving around fake lightsabers and smooshing junk food we stole from the cabinet into our face? When do we finally realize we have power and can feel powerless (most of the time) outside our backyards? At what point does everything in the world knock you over like a truck and leave you there as roadkill for the rest of time so that you are forever in that state of knowing? When do things switch from being a fever dream to actually being significant?

I don’t know. 

Is it school? When we have a place and space and purpose for everyday, menial things every day; when we finally leave our parents, either for the morning, day or months; when we push out unicorns and rainbows for ABCs and books and arithmetic and linear algebra, topology, quantum physics and the history of the Mongols. Everything in our brains from before gets pushed out as goop. Aw, I’ll miss the goop.

Is it our careers? When being a veterinarian actually means taking care of sick dogs or pets that have become actual roadkill, and you don’t have the heart to tell Jimmy that his hamster is not making it. When you have to go into marketing. Tech. Consulting. An accountant? I actually have to be an accountant? I thought that’s what creatives do in the movies until they get their hypothetical “Rent” and become Jonathan Larson and then die. No? Okay cool, I guess I’ll be an accountant.

Or is it when we have nuggets of our own? When kids, with all of their joy and intrinsic pain, are given to you. It’s like Christmas, as in that having a child is a gift and that it’s stressful to get everything right for everyone. Of course, as a parent — and if you celebrate, of course — you are mandated to have a yearly Christmas tree. Real, if you’re cool, and fake, if you’re safe. There should be a star. And home videos, for all occasions — not just for the few holidays sprinkled throughout the year. It means road trips and car games and spotting rare license plates and passing back Cheez-Its to crying red-faced children who’ve just had each other in a chokehold. Are we there yet? And trying not to yell and telling them to shut up without saying shut up because it’s still a bad word and you have yourself censored like a child star on Disney Channel. It means multiple nuggets, each loving each other and hating each other with a familial intensity. 

It means that they’re going to hurt each other. And the people outside of your house, too. Don’t worry, they’ll hurt you. And you’ll hurt them. It’s a never ending cycle of hurt, a wheel of hurt spinning — sometimes hitting harder than other times — as the days move forward. But you’re sending them out into the world, so you have to try to not hurt everyday. You succeed some days. You fail others.

When do things matter? At what point in time do we realize that the world is big, and as much as everyone hurts us, we also hurt others on the smallest scale and the largest?

I don’t know. 

What I do know is that one Saturday afternoon, in my backyard, I was doinked by a baseball by one of my brothers. I was about ten. Though it was an accident and no one was around, I was steaming mad. I was hurt. And humiliated, mainly because I am an asshole, and also because I knew the image of me flailing around to the ground like a ragdoll was sort of funny.

So I did the only sensible thing that made sense for a person that doesn’t know much — I took the styrofoam-padded, hard plastic bat and whacked my brother in the side. When he grabbed there in pain and yanked it away from me, he did the same back to me, and I took the blow all the way down to the floor. 

It hurt, I did know that, and it was something I knew, as I laid amongst the leaves and dirt and toys and everything from before, hurt him just as much. 

And we just kept playing after.

Kyla Figueroa ‘24 is a Vol. 260–262 Managing Editor for The Grind and a staff writer for Arts & Life. She is a junior from Stockton, California studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and minor in CSRE. Ask her about the indie rock and pop music scene, the coming-of-age genre, and Slaughterhouse-Five at kfigueroa ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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