This photo is one I found in an old album. I’m sure my dad took it. It’s of the carriage house, which was basically my grandma’s garage. This is taken from where we lived. Grandma King lived to the left of this picture, at the top of the hill.
The soil and rough sod space under the tree was her flower bed, and she spent years making it gorgeous. The little trees in a row in the right corner are mentioned, as is the grassy space behind.
How funny to find a photo of something I described in a writing workshop!
This workshop exercise was one of “Three outdoor settings from childhood”, then we were supposed to use them in a story. I’m not so hot about the story, but I like the setting descriptions. So, here they are!
The grass was different in Bob Brown’s yard. Bob kept it cut short, just like his flat top haircut. There were never dandelions in his yard, even when it grew untamed while he and Mary Lou were on vacation. The clover and myrtle seemed to shrink under his powerful hand. The autumn piles of leaves never drifted on to his lawn.
That lawn wasn’t arranged with the house seated in the center of a neat rectangle like most of the others. The borders of the back yard slid around behind my grandmother’s and up against ours. Before I had noticed the obedience of the Brown’s lawn, I had believed that this border section belonged to my family.
Eventually, it seemed odd to me that the grass would be shorter, tamer, sweeter in this one section of lawn. The sun would shine more softly on this particular place. Even in July, it was cool and shady under the wide outstretched arms of the enormous trees. Roots spread under the dark soil like fingers splayed in the sand.
Because the lawn was so well maintained, there weren’t any of the common rolls, bumps and divots that tripped me in my own lawn. It was smooth and flat, perfect for blind-man’s bluff and picnics. The gentleness of the light and the softness of the grass inspired serenity. Playing in that section of the lawn I didn’t get quite as dirty.
Of course, the property line itself was clearly marked to the adult eye. A series of seven junipers marched this line. The happless trees were not accorded the same awed respect that the lawn was. They had low enough branches for tiny sneakers to climb. They had bark that peeled and lent itself to braiding and twisting into crowns and baskets. Birds built accessible nests in these trees, a glimpse of tiny eggs was a rare treat to share with a special friend.
The section of Bob Brown’s lawn that bordered ours sat directly behind my grandmother’s old carriage house and the most beautiful of her flower gardens. I would spend hours with her, hopping on the enormous fieldstones that bordered the gardens, helping her weed by tiptoeing between ferns and flowers to those places that were slightly beyond her reach.
The carriage house was the spookiest place close to home. My parents said that it was the oldest building in our whole town. It, therefore, had to be haunted. There were five of the ancient floor boards left, turned grey with age and black soil. Bats lived in the rafters. Antique farming implements hung rusting and disintegrating along the walls. I never dared touch the scythe, even if I knew the wood would be brittle and the metal blade thin with age.
Bob Brown’s back yard, my grandmother’s garden, and the s[pooky garage weren’t where I spent the majority of my time. I was most likely playing in the branches of the trees of my own yard.
Before I was tall enough or adventurous enough to climb up the trees, I took residency in the bushes at the ends of our driveway. They were old, and smelled like cedar closets. I could crawl between them and among their limbs. The larger branches and trunks would spread wide enough to form seats, or reach across spaces to create rooms.
The first tree I succeeded in climbing was a small maple closer to the road. Its bright leaves were broad enough to block climbers from the naked eye. In this tree, my friends and I had named several of the branches. Any of the limbs that were suitable for seating had names: the high branch, the low branch, the fork branch, the danger branch (because someone always fell off of it!).