Robin Phillips (pictured right) and her family are supporters of Let Grow. As Robin puts it, she is not a parent, but she was a great kid with lessons to share.
Mom Opened the Door and There He Was
By Robin J. Phillips
My dad was in the Air Force, which meant we moved around quite a bit. I have memories of lots of playgrounds. I remember the formal kind in city parks and schoolyards. But my favorite playgrounds were the ones we created with our imaginations.
From the time I was 6 until about 10, we lived in Nebraska in a house at the end of a road right across the fence from a giant field alongside the runway at Offutt Air Force Base. Behind our house was a big ditch. And on the other side of our house from the air base were dozens of new homes under construction. All of these places were our playgrounds.
The field by the runway was where we flew kites and looked for bird’s nests. And that’s where someone had dumped an old, rusted car we pretended to drive. The ditch was filled with concrete blocks we tried to avoid as we swung across on knotted ropes, shouting out our best Tarzan yells.
But it was the construction sites and the empty lots around them that we really loved.
One of my favorite memories of playing in those fields was on the day we found a garden. This garden wasn’t behind anyone’s house. It was in the middle of OUR PLAYGROUND. And it was full of carrots. Fresh raw carrots visible only to the trained eye under those green leafy tops.
Soon, we were all doing it, pulling up carrots, wiping the dirt off on our pants and snacking away. My three brothers and I and a couple of neighbor kids laughing and snacking. It was so much fun until out of the blue, a man grabbed my big brother by the collar. We never saw him coming.
That guy was smart. He grabbed the biggest kid, the leader and he demanded that we tell him where we lived. We tried to fake him out by sending him to the wrong house, but somehow he got it out of us and marched us up to our front porch.
My mom opened the door and there he was. A big, angry man in dirty clothes holding on to one of her sons and shouting something about her other kids. I thought we were in deep trouble. Here’s a grownup telling my Mom that we were stealing from him, eating his carrots, destroying his garden. Oh, crap. I just stood there, eyes wide open, watching the drama unfold and then all of a sudden, my mom turned and went back in the house.
What was going on!?!?
Then the best thing ever happened. My mom came back to the porch with a bag of carrots. She handed that guy a bag of carrots from the store. Without saying the words, she was telling her kids that this man was being small. She was telling us that he was wrong to turn our fun and games into high drama.
My mom was telling us that it was okay to keep exploring. And she was telling us that she trusted us.
Being military brats, we were used to rules, regulations, chore charts, merits and demerits. On the day of the Carrot Caper, it was my mom who enforced the code, but my mom and dad both set the tone in our house.
My dad died in 2017 and left some money for his kids to give away to nonprofits that focus on educating kids. My interpretation of that was that if kids aren’t safe and well-fed and loved and full of imagination and curiosity, then they weren’t going to be ready to learn.
We decided to help support Let Grow, because my dad’s mission aligns so closely with Let Grow’s mission. And because we believe that today’s kids deserve the chance to find their own carrot gardens.
Photos of Robin with mom Joyce Phillips and dad Paul Phillips.
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