Saturday Single No. 690

The other day, I drove past the house on Kilian Boulevard, the one Mom sold in 2004. I don’t get over to the East Side very often, and I was startled to see that whoever lives there now has put up a fence.

It’s a nice fence, about six feet tall with vertical white slats, enclosing the back yard. Curious, I drove around the block and then along the alley, looking at how the fence installers handled the relatively steep bank along Eighth Street, the rise along the driveway, and the area back by the alley where the garbage cans stand.

And as I examined the fence, I was stuck by my reaction to it. Not all that deeply inside of me, a voice was saying, “Dammit, you can’t fence off my back yard!”

Of course, it’s not my back yard anymore. Hasn’t been since 1976, when I packed a few things into my 1961 Falcon and moved across town to the drafty old house on the North Side.

But in a way that I’m sure lots of people will understand, it still is my back yard. It’s where Dad put the swing set and built the sandbox during the summer of 1957. It’s where I took a batting stance near the back steps and learned to hit a plastic baseball over the garage and into the alley. It’s where I endured the drudgery of digging dandelions and picking up sticks more times than I can count from childhood into young adulthood, adding mowing the grass along the way.

The back yard is where Dad cooked bread-and-butter roasts on his grill on many Saturdays and Sundays from the early 1960s into the 1990s. It’s where relatives gathered, again from the early 1960s into the 1990s to celebrate our family’s milestones: Lutheran confirmations, high school graduations, weddings, anniversaries.

It’s where we sat – Mom, my sister and brother-in-law, the Texas Gal and I – late on the June afternoon when Dad died, beginning to plan his funeral.

As I said, it’s a nice fence, and no doubt the folks who live in the house on Kilian have good reasons for installing it. And they certainly have the right to do so. It’s their back yard.

But in a very fundamental way, it’s always going to be my back yard, too.

Here’s a tune unrelated to any of that except for the words “back yard” in the title: Nat Stuckey’s cover of “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard,” first recorded by Elvis Presley. Stuckey’s version comes from his 1969 album New Country Roads. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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