City Life and What We Take For Granted - Who Needs a Yard?

ByJohn W. Morris WPVI logo
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Center City (WPVI) -- "What about a yard?"

That's always one of the questions life-long city residents get. We choose to live in a place where, at best, you might get 20 feet by 20 feet. My family has less than that.

But our answers have always been "who needs a yard? The city is our yard!"

We have parks, playgrounds and side streets. They're huge spaces, they have variety, and they are social! And when you have a toddler, the choices of outside spaces is an asset. He never gets bored with the options.

He does get bored in the house, and we do need to get outside. But those choices aren't there now. This is when we think a yard, with grass and space would really be nice.

When my son and I walked through the parks this week, they weren't social. I can't explain to him yet (he's two) why his father won't let him play with reckless abandon, and run to the other kids who were also there, closely guarded by their families. We found a little patch of grass for a few minutes, but then retreated to be a little closer to home and farther from strangers.

For that, we have a little alley in front of our house. It's long and narrow, and he can run from one end to the other, chalk up the pavement, and play some very limited hide-and-seek with his mother and me. Its drawbacks are oddly also its draws this week. It's private and protected, and I don't worry about any sort of coronavirus transmission. But it is also private and protected. There is no playing with other kids because there are no other kids. And it isn't a yard. It's a tightly enclosed sidewalk that is a far cry from what most people consider an open space. The fresh air is nice, the safety is nice, but it's no yard.

I grew up at 12th and Pine, and our "yard" was two blocks of Camac Street between Spruce and Lombard. Every day, regardless of the season, there were kids playing ball, riding bikes, roller skating, and inventing games that we still remember decades later. There was no social spacing, and in fact, we took pride in the grime, the blood, the sweat. My wife and I were looking forward to the scraped knees, and the street-side medical decisions that children make, when there really isn't a great risk.

But for now, we are walking quickly through parks, maintaining a distance from each other, and then playing in an alley. We are still being creative though, inventing games that our son might not remember, but my wife and I will.