It’s just another For Sale sign for a beautiful old house on a street tucked away from the flow. The inhabitants have moved on to new digs, but if you want a tour, I suggest you start in the back.
As lots go, it’s a grand one, eh?
Yes, sorry about the overgrown shrubs, but the rose? Did you see how it’s taller than the blue spruce? A transplant from my grandmother’s garden. Ok, follow along here by the old porch-what’s that? You’ve not seen one like this before?
Come over and here and stand awhile. See how the autumn sunlight hits that spot just there? Root yourself a minute and hear the swing swoosh, the scuff of heels on the flagstone as we skipped around after Felix the cat who shouldn’t be out. Blame it on Sheba-the-dog-that-came-after the-five-kids-but-before-the-eleven-grandkids who thought they were the first to discover the park only pretending to be a garden.
Little beds are still marked along the sides of the garden from the days the five of us were junior green thumbs. I put pansies in mine—each were ours to plant and water. Dad tended roses in one corner, alongside the tiger lilies as bold as any of the colours of Mom’s candle collection.
Sturdier plants survived the onslaught of hockey pucks when the snow was hard enough, or baseballs hit harder than girls should hit, or so the neighbourhood boys thought. Raspberry bushes skirted the sandbox on the hill at the back, the same mound, on that first Christmas when Mom and Dad invited us to come up from our downtown tiny apartment for breakfast (stay in your pjs and just come!), and it was snowing Disney snow so Peter and I ran out to nudge Kate’s toddler sled for her first toboggan ride down the gentle slope to the great lawn, where epic badminton rounds competed with goofy fairy tale theatricals. The kids on the street surely had no idea who or what they were watching as they lined up on the picnic table benches, underneath the giant maple tree.
Were there goblins in the shadows? I looked hard enough while crouching down, trying not to be spotted for long games of hide-and-go-seek that lasted until dusk and the call to come in, let’s hope it’s not’s liver for supper.
Someday, I told myself, I’d be brave enough to hide under the porch where Dad kept all the firewood. One day I will hide in a different shadow, one my teenage boyfriend and I welcome. One day, my father will balance a sherry glass and a lesson about dating when I was invited to join him on the garden chairs and have a little chat after Mom caught me kissing my boyfriend in the park after school. The trees know my secrets. Can you hear them chuckling?
The wind laughs too. Finally, a silent moment for a breeze to be heard after decades of happy noise; from baby cries (yes, Mom, we did so cry sometimes, no one could be happy all the time) to hurry up and jump, would ya? from the top rung of the jungle gym;
or the shouting from the kitchen window to come in, come in, there’s a telephone call for you from Principal Darnley. Am I in trouble? No, Miss Langford, you won a prize! (a prize for word tricks I could do better than baseball);
from Toronto symphony soloists, the finest serenade yet, a surprise for another ageless birthday for Mom; or the splashing from water games and the smack of the croquet mallet for grandchildren tourney, or rock n’roll bashes under a pink and white tent. We wore giant polka-dotted bow ties for that bash, one we called La Belle Aurore, a party for Jane—or was it for Mom and Dad to celebrate the end of an era?— the last of five to graduate from high school, but not the last stomp in the garden. No, never, for the chairs remain for all the Father’s day barbecues and Mother’s Day picnics and school skit practice and group toasts and sung grace outside?—oh dear won’t the neighbours hear us? Who cares, says Mom — spontaneous celebrations,
grilled cheese and oatmeal cookies with date filling for lunch in the days we came home between morning and afternoons at John Ross Robertson School. Can I bring a friend home? Or two? Or a hundred? They’ll all fit here without a squeeze, unlike inside the orange tent pitched right over there for storytelling and practice sleeps for sleepover camp.
Look at the stars!
Listen to the birdsong!
Look at the world-it’s all right here.
Turn around and take in the house behind you.
I know, I saw it-it winked at me too.
See that window up there at the very top? A view for dreamers.
You’ve forgotten how?
No worries, it all begins here.