I was a free range child growing up and nowadays my parents would probably be arrested for letting us walk around on our own. I was driven to kindergarten but when I got to first grade my mom walked me to school once and then my grandmother did the next day but I think it might have been because she wanted to talk to the Scots family that lived on the way to school on the way back. And after that I walked the 7 blocks to school on my own.
I walked past the huge KMPC radio towers vast otherwise vacant lot and looked for horny toads and followed mourning cloak butterflies and robins on the way and on the way home. I always had to go by one house that was on a corner that enchanted me. Any adult with no eyes to see probably thought it was incredibly tacky. It had tiny cement squirrels hidden in and around a big deodar tree and plastic birds secreted in the tree and all sorts of magical things hidden in the yard and I had to check on it every day.
When we moved to Glendale we had to walk to school down a very steep hill and all three of the schools that we would eventually attend were across the street from each other and of course we walked to school because every one did. Even the kids from the mansions on the hill had to walk. It was just what you did unless you were really brave and rode a bike but our hill was so steep that if your brakes went out you’d end up with a broken arm at the very least and some kids did.
At about the half way point down the hill you could turn left and walk on the flat and then head down the hill or you could walk straight down the street. Both were good options depending on your mood. I usually turned left in the morning and went directly up the hill on the way home. If you turned left then there were two magical houses to go by. On the first corner was a kind of spooky house with a huge iron spider web with a spider on it around a yard you couldn’t see in, this was a yard of mystery and imagination and two houses farther on the next corner was my other favourite yard. It had a pond with koi and there were cement animals and gnomes hidden in it again under a huge deodar tree and they had two enormous cement deer in the front yard plus losts of flowers and tree roses. The yards in our neighborhood were minimum of a quarter of an acre and some were whole acres so 3 houses to a block sounds small but it wasn’t. So the yard with the hidden treasures was very enticing and since it was on a corner you got a big view to walk around and see all the magical things. I should also mention that on the north side of street was a house they were always filming something at and the neighborhood kids took great delight in disrupting the filming, at one point it was the main house on the Falcon Crest tv show so they were there a lot. It was modeled on the house Tara in Gone with the Wind and was on an enormous piece of land.
If you wanted to walk down or up the street and not turn, that took you by several enticements, the ice cream truck that parked at the end of the street and if you had the coins you could get something like a 7up popsicle or red hot cinnamon toothpicks which for some reason were extremely popular and burned the hell out of our lips.
There was also the gentleman that started Johnson Pies and after he sold that he started Johnson Yogurt and he had this huge horizontal freezer by the side of his house and he would sit by the sidewalk and he would taste test the flavours of pie and then yogurt on kids coming home from school. Now, some one would probably report him to the health dept or as pervert but it was fun to try some of them and he was harmless. I still don’t really like yogurt and his was the first I ever tasted.
So now our yard is the one that kids drag their grandparents and parents by on walks. We have bunnies and fairies hidden and a fairy door against the house. We have over 15 gnomes (at last count but there are more now) hiding and we periodically move them around because one little girl is certain they move and tells her little brother to look carefully.
We like to sit in the house and listen to the kids if they are speaking in English but we also hear Russian and Hebrew, Spanish and Armenian and sometimes Arabic and French. It makes us giggle and it’s a lot of fun. The gnome moving thing is hysterical to my sister and I because my great uncle had a gnome pushing a wheel barrow and he had all of us cousins convinced when we were little that if we were fast enough we would see him move. I love being “that” yard that I loved to walk by as a kid. Making magic for little kids to dream and see is one of my great pleasures and adding some real magic of our own doesn’t hurt either.