MILTON, VERMONT, UNITED STATES. My neighborhood sits in the center of Milton, Vermont: a rural-seeming suburb of Burlington (the closest we have to a “city” around here). Elementary school teachers who grew up in Milton still call my neighborhood “Catherine’s Woods,” the place where they rode their horses as children. Later, when my teachers attended high school in Milton, all the trees were chopped down and Catherine’s Woods was shrouded in messy piles of sand. They called it the “Sand Pit”—the place to go after school to smoke a cigarette or to watch a lousy fist fight. It wasn’t long before the cookie cutter houses implanted themselves, bringing along their 2.1 children, but never any white picket fences. Not yet. But my family came along.

New trees soon grew in the space behind the houses, distancing the neighborhood from the high school, half a mile into our backyard. It was through these trees that I walked each day, home from school. They were the same strong friends, always standing tall. The tree that could hold the best tree house. The tree that was the easiest to climb. The tree that was good for crying against, the tree that was good for hiding behind. The tree that our new field hockey coach peed next to before our first JV game on the field adjacent to the woods. Each tree, a personality. A reminder.

After emerging from the woods, I also walked across about 100 meters of grass, some sparse pine trees here and there, before reaching the back of our mistakenly pink house. Every day, this was my backyard. And without fail, my gentle tuxedo cat ran to greet me each day, too; after an afternoon of exploring the woods, maybe hunting, he always knew when to meet me, when to follow my footsteps to the grass, through my backyard, to home.

With time, we forgot to build the treehouse and we ran out of time to climb each tree. My field hockey coach quit her job and my cat no longer ran to greet me. He’s buried now, somewhere out there under the grass, in the yard. And eventually the power line company showed up, too, one afternoon, wearing hardhats and yellow construction vests, looking serious, up at those thick black wires connected only by distant telephone poles. A horizon buried in the trees. Soon the chainsaws arrived and it happened while I was gone, at school, a giant Timber! and suddenly all of my trees were gone.

For those last few years, I still walked home across that backyard between my house and the school. Catherine’s Woods. The Sand Pit. Suburbia. Milton. For those last few years, I walked home through my backyard, through a place that used to be something, but was no more. Only woodchips, memories, broken and scattered.

My family later sold the house. I have no backyard now. We, too, have moved on.

For more information on Milton, Vermont, the official tourist website.