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    Ode to a Hobbit Hole

    October 25, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    For three years, we lived in a neighborhood that was devoid of children. There was one little boy who seemed to be the product of a custody battle, as he would disappear and reappear with regularity. Our next-door neighbors on both sides had grandchildren who visited on occasion. And down the street there was one family with two or three little ones, but my best guess is that they spent long hours at school or in daycare, for I only saw them on weekends.

    Our house was located on a dangerous bend in the road, where cars raced by without heeding their surroundings, so those little children weren’t coming down near us, and my children weren’t heading their way either. Such is life and circumstance.

    As time went on, I reconciled myself to the idea that most of my children’s play activities with other children were going to have to be coordinated by me. And I also considered it my duty to provide them with more playmates by having babies as often as possible.


    And then, almost a year and a half ago now, we bought a house in a different neighborhood, and we moved.

    After living in our new house for a few months, it dawned on me that I had never seen any small children on our little block. There were some older boys on the street, but that was about all from what I could tell.

    And then one day, I noticed my son talking through the fence with some children living behind us. Our property line is quite long, and our house is at an angle, so that along the fencing of our backyard we have seven different houses that we can consider to be “next-door.” These children were the farthest away: five houses down the backyard line.

    The children learned each other’s names. They began to meet at the fence every afternoon. I became vaguely aware that I should figure out who my children were talking to. Wasn’t I supposed to be careful about who they spent time with? So I sent my son on a mission to find out more about the family. He came back one day and told me they were Christians. I was wondering if that actually meant Mormon {they have a bunch of little ones, too}, so I told him to ask them what church they attended.

    I was delighted to learn they were members of a church plant with which many of our dear friends are involved.

    Our relationship with this family picked up speed after that. First, they invited us over for a visit, and I became reacquainted with Southern hospitality {they are not from California originally}. Then, the husband of this family drove Si to work for two months, maybe almost three, when he was recovering from his illness. Then, I ended up having their oldest daughter, affectionately referred to here as Neighbor M., join us for Circle Time every morning, and I’m teaching her to read.

    And that is why we ended up with the Hobbit Hole. Why have Neighbor M. walk around the block with an adult when she could walk safely through the backyards alone, and in half the time at that?

    The men decided they could tackle this problem easily. They took off two boards from the backyard fencing, and hooked them together. They put them back on with hinges together, so that they became a makeshift gate. And from that point on, Neighbor M. began to come through the Hobbit Hole every morning.

    A few weeks ago, the children were all outside after their naps, and they were peeking at each other through the Hobbit Hole. Might they use it at other times? They all ran to their mothers to find out, and we, naturally, said yes.

    There was one rule: you must not go into the houses because the mommies are making dinner. All of your play together must be outside.

    And so it was that all of these children, for the first time in their short lives, have gotten to engage in good, old-fashioned neighborhood play.

    They run in and out through the Hobbit Hole at all hours of the day. There are six of them playing out there these days, ages 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. There are two baby boys who are waiting for their turns to join in. My little O. has begun to spend a significant amount of time drooling on the screen door and watching the others run about. Maybe this will inspire him to start walking.

    Every day, I hear these little ones planning adventures. I hear them fighting and making up. I hear them singing hymns and silly songs together. I hear them getting hurt when they stuff too many people into the trampoline at one time.

    I see them holding hands with the toddlers. I see them digging holes. I see them letting a giant dog into my yard. I see them stealing onions from my garden, and I scold them accordingly.

    I am so incredibly grateful that God has blessed us in this way. My children are experiencing something that I feared might be a rarity in their lives–neighborhood outdoor play. I know this will not be forever. Neighborhoods these days are far from permanent. But, for now, I thank God daily for the Hobbit Hole, and a God-fearing family to share it with.

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  • Reply Rachel R. October 28, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Oh, how exciting!

  • Reply Kansas Mom October 26, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    We were at a farm last Friday, too. First Son milked a cow! I have pictures to post but haven’t had a chance to get them up yet.

    We want a cow, too, but it’s not at the top of the list. Kansas Dad is seriously considering bees for next summer.

  • Reply Ellen October 26, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    What a sweet story! I would love that in our cul de sac. But I feel like ministry is what we’re called to in this neighborhood, and I’m praying that the families we’re befriending will come to know Christ through us.

  • Reply Jennifer October 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Oh, I long for neighbors like that! Our street is almost deserted and there are no children. So sad. What a blessing God has given your familes!

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts October 26, 2009 at 5:02 am

    KM, Yes, but you have all the charms of a real country life. We visited a wonderful dairy on Friday, and now I want a cow.



    GJ, Yes! That is a theme lesson for me this year, I think: Thank God for friends.

  • Reply Gretchen Joanna October 26, 2009 at 4:09 am

    What a delightful story you have shared. I can just see the kids romping. Thank God for friends.

  • Reply Kansas Mom October 26, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Something we don’t have out on the Range! I’m envious and so glad you are blessed!

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