There was no lawn on that lawn

I took this photo while walking home from work one recent evening. It’s the front lawn of an elementary school in our neighbourhood – a place where children play, and play hard, as was the Manse lawn back in the day. This is pretty much exactly what our front lawn looked like back then. My mother was not impressed.

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.)

The front lawn today. Back in about 1970, my mother would have thought she’d died and gone to heaven if she’d seen it. Instead, what confronted her when she looked out the front windows was a large patch of bare dirt.

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.

2 thoughts on “There was no lawn on that lawn

  1. Oh that takes me back – acres of grass, house-sized lilacs to build forts in, and the summer darkness when we’d all go slightly mad – brother, cousins, and me – in the friendly fragrant dark lit by fireflies, while the adults played cards indoors, and from the open windows the light streamed out from fortress home.

    • What a beautiful picture you’ve painted with your words, Lindi! Fireflies – oh yes, how I remember fireflies! I haven’t seen them for years and years. (And whippoorwills – remember those? Whatever happened to whippoorwills?) And I love your image of the home as friendly fortress, with light streaming from it. What a cozy, comforting feeling it was to know that when the darkness had well and truly fallen and you finally came in from your evening’s play with the other kids, you would be greeted with the warmth and welcome of home.

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