sandbox

The Green, Green Grass of Home

When Mike was 2, he wanted a sandbox, and his father said: “There goes the yard. We’ll have kids over here day and night, and they’ll throw sand into the flower beds, and cats will make a mess in it, and it’ll kill the grass for sure.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

When Mike was 5, he wanted a jungle gym set with swings that would take his breath away and bars to take him to the summit, and his father said: “Good grief, I’ve seen those things in back yards, and do you know what they look like? Mud holes in a pasture. Kids digging their gym shoes in the ground. It’ll kill the grass.”

And Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

Between breaths, when Daddy was blowing up the plastic swimming pool, he warned: “You know what they’re going to do to this place? They’re going to condemn it and use it for a missile site. I hope you know what you’re doing. They’ll track water everywhere and have a million water fights, and you won’t be able to take out the garbage without stepping in mud up to your neck. When we take this down, we’ll have the only brown lawn on the block.”

“It’ll come back,” Mike’s mother said.

When Mike was 12, he volunteered his yard for a camp out. As they hoisted the tents and drove in the spikes, his father stood at the window and observed, “Why don’t I just put the grass seed out in cereal bowls for the birds and save myself the trouble of spreading it around? You know for a fact that those tents and all those big feet are going to trample down every single blade of grass, don’t you. Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’re going to say.

‘It’ll come back.'”

The basketball hoop on the side of the garage attracted more crowds than the Olympics. And a small patch of lawn that started out with a barren spot the size of a garbage can lid soon drew to encompass the entire side yard.

Just when it looked as if the new seed might take root, the winter came and the sled runners beat it into ridges. Mike’s father shook his head and said, “I never asked for much in this life – only a patch of grass.”

And his wife smiled and said, “It’ll come back.”

The lawn this fall was beautiful. It was green and alive and rolled out like a sponge carpet along the drive where gym shoes had trod … along the garage where bicycles used to fall … and around the flower beds where little boys used to dig with iced-tea spoons.

But Mike’s father never saw it. He anxiously looked beyond the yard and asked with a catch in his voice, “He will come back, won’t he?”