My first blog post of the new year continues my grandfather’s story, but is a little different. The reason why I say different is because it leaves Europe during the war and fast forwards to 1990 in the backyard of my grandfather’s home. The family yard was and is a very important fixture in mine and my family’s life. A lot of important events took place in that backyard and a lot of time was spent there. Everyone that knows our family knows about “Manja’s yard and flower garden.” She would plan travels around the different planting seasons, all of our family pets are buried there. The giant oak tree in the middle of the yard, now dead, houses three woodduck nests. Acorns from the great Mennonite Oak tree in Ukraine are planted in that yard. Heck, I spent six years of my life cutting and weed-whacking the grass there. And as the stories of my grandfather continue on some of the scenes and conversations centre around that yard, so I thought it pertinent to write something about the yard and its importance to me.
The style is also different, taken out of first person and put into third person narrative (blame it on creative writing and trying new things).
So here it is…
The leaves are crisp; the ground is cool to the touch and the sun is low in the horizon. A river weaves itself through the city. On the outskirts of the small prairie city, along the winding river is a house. The lavish backyard that looks out onto the river is so magnificent that it takes ones attention away from the sprawling white and blue trimmed two storey estate. Though it is fall the grass is green, perfectly manicured and the flowerbeds are weeded and kept. In spring there are fresh tulipsand daffodils; pinks, oranges, yellows and reds. In summer the bees dance among the tiger lilies and sun daisies. There are herbs and spices that are picked regularly for teas, seasonings and their pleasant aromas. The yard smells of rain in the springtime and of apple blossoms in the summer. In the middle of the yard is a giant oak tree, almost forty feet tall. Its trunk is thick and forks at three different places. One of the three arms has died, and the couple who own this property wonder if the tree will survive the winter.
The earlier mentioned house has a subtle elegance to it. It is one of the first that was built along the river, standing tall at two stories. There are two French doors that open up onto a second floor balcony. On the main floor there is a large bay window that looks into a kitchen. Underneath the second floor balcony is a patio with flower pots, chairs, a table and barbeque grill. Ivy grows up rod iron pillars to the second story. The house is white, with blue trim around the windows sills and door frames. A white picket fence runs the length of yard and encloses the sanctuary. The large evergreens at the corners of the property protect the owners’ from gusting winds – and in winter, blustering snow drifts.
At the back of the yard closest to the river is a summer patio and shed that house the garden tools. In the summer the patio is frequented with guests watching ‘canoers’ and boaters paddling their way along the river. From the water, its vibrant red color is what sticks out amongst the lush green forested yard. Closest to the house a faded red wagon rests beside one of the three flowerbeds. The wagon is filled with fresh sage and rosemary. In the middle of the furthest bed is a giant rock that was originally across the street but the owner wanted it in the back yard, and it was so.
On top of this rock stands a little boy, no more than four, his blonde hair shimmering in the setting sun. He stands barefoot, wearing overall shorts that fall just above his pudgy knees. His cheeks are red and are as pudgy as his knees. The little boy holds his left hand above his eyes and peers over his world. A small chipmunk disembarks from the giant oak tree and scampers across the yard and giggling the boy jumps in delight. He begins to climb down from his thrown, but as he begins, he trips over his left foot and falls to the ground.
The grandfather who has been watching his grandson from his seat on the patio gets up and heads toward the rock. Crying has now overtaken the silence. The man does not run, he is controlled. His hair is white, with grey around the ears and is slicked back. The man has big glasses and despite his eyes tiring over time they still have a sparkle to them. His face is weathered and wrinkled, like an old catcher’s mit. He wears a tailored short sleeved button dress shirt that is tucked into his silk hemmed pants. A Gold Rolex is latched around his left wrist. The man walks across the yard hiding a years old limp. He reaches the crying child.
“Ah, my big guy!” He says. With one quick movement the grandfather has the boy in his arms and heads back to the patio. There is a scrape on the boys left leg and dirt above the right eye. The boy continues to cry. The grandfather blows on the scrape and rocks the child. The two reach the patio. The grandfather rests the child in a chair and pulls another close. He brushes dirt from the boy’s eyes. The child’s tears have calmed and turned into sniffles.
“My Mikhail, we all fall in life, it is just how we get up that will define us,” the grandfather says.