This evening our little corner of Montreal was mightily enlivened by the sound of children cavorting in the alley behind our house. It has been a stinking-hot day here, and while I’m not much for air conditioning (I think it brings evil summer colds, and I hate freezing to death in the office all summer long), tonight’s one of those nights when those who have it are lucky. Obviously the large family in the house immediately across the alley from ours doesn’t, because when we arrived home from work the mum was using a garden hose to spray down her own children and quite a few of the neighbours’ besides. The kids were absolutely loving it, squealing and laughing as they ran through the cold stream of water and got thoroughly, thoroughly soaked. That mum was the most popular person on our alley tonight, let me tell you.
It reminded me of spring and summer and fall evenings long ago in Queensborough. Our house and big yard, plus the fact that there were four kids in residence, plus the fact that our father was always willing to try to fix a kid’s bike, and that our place was less, shall we say, fraught than some of the homes those kids came from, made the Manse a magnet for pretty much all of the neighbourhood youngsters. We would play baseball and tag, ride our bikes around, and laugh and shout and carry on until it was time to come in – a sign of that would be the bats swooping (harmlessly and, in their own way, rather beautifully) through the darkening evening air – and get ready for bed.
I have nothing but happy memories of those evenings rampaging around in the Manse yard with my siblings and so many other kids from around the village. But there was one side effect that mortified my mother: because of the constant activity, our lawn not-so-gradually became utterly bereft of grass. It was just one very big patch of dirt. A great playground, but not so great if you’re worried about the Manse Committee’s perception of how you’re keeping the place up.
Of course we kids couldn’t have cared less, and I don’t think it was much of a concern for Dad either. (Dad was not much for aesthetics, ever.)
And now it’s all academic, because the grass has grown back very nicely indeed. Helped by the fact that for some years there hasn’t been an entire village’s worth of kids playing on it every night of the week.
Which makes for a lovely, verdant lawn. But it’s maybe a little too quiet out there of a summer evening.