This year WYSO and Tecumseh Land Trust sponsored Living on the Land, an essay contest inviting writers of all ages to reflect on what home and land mean to them. Sumayah Chappelle won the grand prize in the middle school category.
She is my backyard. She hopes I will come back and fix her scars, recreate her beauty, or simply stop by and say hello . . . but it’s been a while since I was back there.
She had once been defeated. She was swollen black and blue from the bitter winter. Her ice-cold blanket of snow crunched beneath my step. She had been nearly charred to death by the blazing dog days of summer. She was frayed.
Summers ago, my friend and I spent weeks creating a clubhouse there. The final product was indeed junk, and yet . . . it was magnificent! We spent hours each day, just relaxing. We knew it wouldn’t last forever and the day came soon enough.
“Sumayah!” my mother said. “Clean this mess up!” . . . And that was the end of it. We spent hours demolishing my beautiful clubhouse. After that, what was it? Just a backyard. What’s so special? Nothing. And I didn’t go back.
I feel like she tries to remind me, tries to get my attention. She wants to make sure I haven’t forgotten about her. I haven’t forgotten.
I peeked into my backyard one day, and it all came back to me. Not only the clubhouse, but the blackberry kitchen beneath the tree, the forest of weeds, and the dented soda cans left in the yard from my brother’s shooting range. She was left trashy and run-down, but no matter how dreary she’s become, she’s mine, and I love her.