One of my earliest blog posts recalled the idyllic days of my own childhood.
As some of you know, my journey to motherhood was not an easy one.
These days, especially in the last six months since we’ve moved into our new home, on so many occasions the realization has been amazingly sharp, crystal clear to me. These are the days. These are the golden days of childhood, my children’s childhood. I hope they will remember these days as golden when they grow up, the way I recall my growing up years. But I know that, whatever memories they may or may not retain of these days, to me, right here, right now, these are the golden days. These are the days where everything I longed for when I dreamt of having a family coincides at the golden section with my own rose coloured, sepia tinted memories of childhood.
And increasingly, it centres around the lawn.
There are moments, when I see my two girls racing down the lawn, long hair flying, giggles floating over them like speech bubbles, that I just stop and wish I had a video recorder in my mind, to record the moment with everything in it, the exact shade of light, the exact sound of feet rustling through grass, the exact feeling of lighthearted joy, the exact sense of… I don’t know what.
I’d need a video camera that is capable to summing up the whole to something much more than the sum of the parts.
At first, the lawn was a lake of mud and sand and Amit had started to play football with the girls (an unimaginably unequal contest). Then we planted grass and everyone was forbidden from setting foot on the lawn, much to Amit’s chagrin (the kids were rather more understanding about it, though not as compliant). Now that the grass has sprung up quite a bit, we’ve (I’ve) relaxed the rules somewhat. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve discovered (or, in my case, rediscovered) the joy of a family game of badminton in one’s own front lawn. The kids have discovered the sheer exuberance of “running race” up and down the length of the lawn, ten or fifteen times at a stretch late in the evening, in the dark, barefoot. Amit and I have discovered that beer is just as enjoyable in the lawn as it used to be in the verandah. And of course, the kids have found that the top of the gatepost is a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
Our fledgling lawn is far from perfect, though. It’s been through a lot in its life already. It’s been trodden upon, starved for water, flooded, and – worst of all – founded on a layer of cement dust. It has recently had 50 kilos of horribly rough and dry compost thrown on it at random. It’s full of stones, bits of wood, tambaccoo wrappers and other inorganic matter, and – horror of horrors – cigarette butts, thanks to a callous neighbor who smokes in the corner of his tiny balcony and tosses the squashed butts over the wall.
And of course, we have no gardener and our efforts at growing flowers have not been a ravishing success thus far.
For me, based on my own growing up years, a proper lawn has to be lined with trees, at least a dozen of them. Of course, this is no government bungalow and trees take years to grow. The two that we have as of now are not even knee high. By the time we plant three or four trees in the next monsoon, the kids will be seven. By the time the trees grow up enough so you can climb into them and sit on their branches, they’ll be 27. We might even be grandparents by then (good lord!).
Luckily, we have a neighbor – the same whose bougainvillea I have enticed over to our side of the fence. Which would also be the same neighbor whose mango tree benevolently arches into our airspace laden with fruit that can be easily accessed from our balcony. This mango tree, for now, serves the same purpose that the dozen or so fruit trees served in the garden of eden of my childhood. That is, to be climbed.
It started like this. There’s the wall, and atop the wall there’s a wire fence. When we play badminton, our lawn being the long and narrow driveway variety, the shuttlecock obviously makes regular forays into the neighbour’s property. At first, Amit and I insisted that the kids go all the way out the gate, along the road, look for the caretaker and request permission to enter, go into the neighbour’s property and then retrieve the shuttlecock. All very proper and correct. Obviously, this didn’t last very long. We had some friends over and the kids were playing out in the lawn and when the shuttlecock sailed over the wall, one of the kids (a boy, obviously) quickly clambered over the wall to get it. And after that there was no turning back. Amit and I protested feebly but after a while it just seemed futile, so we gave up and let them.
The next step the girls improvised all on their own. It was to climb up on to the wall, walk along the top gripping the fence, reach the tree and climb into it. Then they figured out they could hang from it like monkeys, travelling down a limb hand over hand and dropping to the ground from something over 7 ft high – since it is a little above Amit’s head. They also figured out that they could climb higher into the tree and settle comfortably into the fork between branches, or sprawl along the length of a branch like a panther at sunset.
In the government houses I grew up in, I had a dozen different fruit trees at my disposal, one for every mood, one for every occasion. Here, there’s just one, and it isn’t even really in our house. But at least there is one and we didn’t have to wait 20 years for it.
There are so many things I want to pass on to, or share with, my children – swimming, baking, numbers, photography, travel, history, music, writing, knitting, reading, dogs… to name a few. But at least one of the things on that list has now started. I don’t have a name for it, really – playing outdoors, running, climbing trees, what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that one happy sunshine part of my childhood has now become a reality for my children as well. What could be more satisfying than that?