Let’s Pretend


Along with wildflowers, early spring brings wild onions, which will continue to flourish through most of the summer. Whenever I see them, I remember an elaborate game my brothers and sisters and I used to play in our backyard. It was called “Shipwreck,” and, more than a game, it was a melodramatic improvisation in which we had to pretend that we’d been stranded on a desert island and needed to find a way to survive. It worked best on sunny summer days, when heat and thirst made method actors of us.

The game was simple. After “crashing” our airplane built of picnic benches and and rusty backyard furniture, we  tumbled onto our lawn, usually into the large patch of dirt we used as home base in our other games. My oldest sister was the organized one, who roused us into realizing our pathetic fate. She ordered us to find shelter, almost inevitably the tunnel formed by the spirea along the fence, and a place to sleep, generally the furniture cushions, which, after baking in the sun, had a warm, comforting mildewy smell. For food, we foraged in our battered lawn, where we could always find some mature wild onions. My sister would collect them and hang them from the bars of our swing set, as if drying them might make them more edible. The game could go on like this infinitely, because, as I recall, we never actually got saved. We just stopped playing.

Thankfully, my sister never actually made us eat the onions.  My younger son, on the other hand, used to eat them all of the time, when his older brother told him that he was Felicia the horse and that wild onions were his proper food. He also ate a lot of grass.  While he doesn’t do this anymore, he still eats a profane amount of vegetables.  We’re making our garden bigger this year.


In addition to the onions, I found some lovely marsh-marigolds (caltha palustris), growing by the same temporary pond where I heard the spring peepers a few days ago.  The fresh green leaves and delicate yellow flowers are striking against the dark of the marsh.  Especially now that the shredded red plastic cup is gone.


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