The empty lot between our yard and the Blanchards' was always called just The Field. It was an overgrown acre of weeds, elderberry bushes and a few scrubby trees ... but mostly weeds. Mr. Blanchard and my father kept a two-lawn-mower-wide path open in summer so that my friend Jeffrey and I could go back and forth, and in winter one of us would flip over a sled and drag it across the snow for the same reason.
Summer, though, was The Field's best season for Jeffrey and me. The path was lined with wild blackberries - jaggers, we called them - to snack on, and with ragweed that, when the fingers were slid along the stem, offered a handful of green anthers. "Happy new year!" we'd call out, showering the other with natural confetti. (Allergies? They just weren't considered.) Blades of grass grew wide, perfect for positioning between the thumbs to create a "duck call." Food, confetti and noisemakers: The Field was a party.
It was also an escape. Picking my way through the jaggers, I could stamp down a spot under the crabapple tree to hang out in peace with my dog. Jeffrey and I similarly made a "clubhouse" among the elderberries, returning to the call of our names with purple-stained clothes.
I know that others of my generation had places similar to The Field. Suburbs were only starting to grow, so my school friends were able to find the creeks and copses at the edges before they, too, were developed. Even my cousin Carol Ann, a "town girl," found alleys that offered up bits of glass for a homemade kaleidoscope.
Now, though, I wonder: Do kids still have these empty spaces and empty hours?