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Front Yard to Back Yard

October 20, 2012

Some time ago, I used to eat at McDonald’s regularly.  I noticed that family groups there sit together at a table but don’t talk to people at other tables.  They do engage in civilities, of course, but don’t hold conversations with them.  They are still pleasant and respectful, but maintain their distance from other people.  It was just a passing observation.

Later, I heard a curious phrase on the radio: “The move from the front yard to the back yard”.  I was mystified by its meaning at first, but finally realized what it meant.  People used to sit out on their front porch.  They greeted people as they passed by.  Sometimes people walked up to join them for a visit.  Then, they moved family activities to the back yard to isolate themselves from the neighbors.

When did this happen?.  I never experienced it.  I have seen it in movies.  The move must have been before television, before radio, before automobiles, back when people made their own entertainment.  No wonder I never experienced it!

What happens now?  When families have a back yard BBQ, they invite people from all over.  These are friends, relatives, and acquaintences.  Something has changed.  People now have social connections with others all over the place.  Connections are no longer restricted to neighbors, although people are still cordial to their neighbors.  This is both a loss and a gain.

Recently, I’ve noticed a few houses where there was a chair sitting on the front steps.  Could there be a resurgence of this old tradition?  Then I noticed a can beside the chair.  People went out there to smoke because they can’t smoke in the house anymore!  Sometimes I even see someone standing in the front yard, smoking.  Often they have a phone held to their ear, talking to someone someplace else.  Nope, communication has destroyed that tradition.

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