A Swinging Neighborhood

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

There’s my block and then there’s the other block. They have lots of little kids. No kids live on my block, anymore. They’ve all grown and moved away.  I wonder if my neighbors call my block, “Old People Land.”

I love nature and birds, and I have always kept my yard natural. Jerome, the Great and Good, has put our brush in the back of our yard for years. If I were to pick up any book about attracting birds to the yard, having a brush pile would be the first suggestion. I put water out and it attracts many birds and I suspect, some stealthy nocturnal raccoons too.

When my young neighbors moved in to the other block ( Young People Land) about four or five years ago, they put in a swing set near the back of their property. Their property touches the back of my land. One day, I looked out from my deck and I noticed my elm tree was dead. It had probably been dead for years, but honestly I never noticed it until the old widow moved out and the young family moved in.  My tree was right over their swing set. Terrified, I called the tree company the same day, and arranged to have the tree removed.

I left the stump of the tree, however. I thought it would be a great place to sit, or put a natural container garden, or a rock sculpture. I found serenity in my natural looking backyard.

My neighbor called one day, and said he was taking down some trees on his property, and he asked if he could remove the stump from mine. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Thanks.”

His swing sets got bigger and brighter. Vivid plastic colors of red, yellow and blue stood next to my brown and gray brush pile. He added a basketball net on a blue, white and red plastic pedestal.

One day I got a call from him. He was very polite when he asked me about cleaning up my brush pile. He blamed “the mess” on my lawn guy who, he said, “Never cleaned the back of my property.” My neighbor felt I would want to know that my brush pile possibly harbored poison ivy or dangerous wildlife, like mice. Would I speak to my lawn guy, please.

I called up my lawn guy and told him the brush pile would have to go. I wanted to be a good neighbor. And so, after forty years, the brush pile in the back of my property—went.

These young families really know how to build on to a house. I watch, as each of them on the “Young Family Block” adds on, up and out. My neighbor is almost finished with his renovation. His house, which was once the size of mine, has quadrupled in size.

And these young families, they also know how to maximize the possibilities of a backyard.  Let’s take another neighbor. He has created a veritable adult and kiddie playland! I know because his backyard diagonally touches my backyard.

He’s got:

  • One in-ground swimming pool, with many lounge chairs, and lots of colorful pool toys. Often his pool is the meeting spot on hot summer days for the folks from the Young Families’ Block. Therefore he also has:
  • Some umbrella tables and chairs
  • Some grill or grills. I can’t see, but I bet he’s got a smoker.
  • A large outdoor fire-pit.
  • A wire fence which he is required to have by law. It also works to contain his kids, the rest of the neighborhood’s kids, and his three large dogs, barking dogs.
  • A super-duper outdoor gym set which includes one or two slides, several creaky swings, ladders, parallel bars, places for kids to crawl and climb, and a little slant roofed house at the top. His gym set is bigger than some sets I see at public parks.
  • A large outdoor trampoline often filled with hordes of joyful jumping juniors.
  • A vegetable garden with a plastic composter…near where our properties touch, fenced from rabbits.
  • A purple martin bird feeder, high on a pole.
  • A shed

Last night, at twilight, I heard the joyous sounds of children’s laughter. There must have been ten little ones of all different ages jumping around with glee in the sideyard between the aformentioned neighbor’s backyards. I saw the reason for the kids’ delight. It was a tire swing, hung between two trees. The kids were delirious as they took turns. I watched four at a time swing together, but they squealed the most when a dad pushed them.

The teacher in me watched from my upstairs window. I wondered about the older kids’ homework. Then, I figured the parents must have said something like, “Homework first; then the swing.”

Long ago, when our block was the Young Family Block, we had a swing too. It was in the back of our house near our brush pile. Like the tire swing, our wooden swing was tied to the strong branch of one of our trees. I pushed my babies in that little swing and listened to their chatter and the chatter of the birds in my yard.

The swing is gone; the tree it hung from is gone; my brush pile is gone; and my children are gone from my backyard too.  When my kids visit, we  play ball with my grandchild  and she learns which tree to use for first base, second, third, and home base. We bat the ball around, and then they all go home.

I hear the sounds of other people’s children in my backyard now.  Maybe that’s a good thing. I enjoy watching them and listening to them. I know, that if ever I needed help, my young neighbors would be right there for me. They are really wonderful neighbors. I’m lucky to have them– and all of their bright plastic colors.

Lewis and Sparky

A couple of years ago, Jerome and I were out in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies. I was eager to see wildlife, particularly bears.  Finally at the end of our vacation, somewhere near Emerald Lake in British Columbia, we saw a small black bear off in the woods.  A triumph for us!  When we got home and told our neighbors about our bear, they laughed.  While we were three thousand miles away, a bear was right down the block from our house raiding a  neighbor’s bird feeder.  Go figure.

Clean-Up in Aisle Six!

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

I was buying cheese at the deli department of my local supermarket. Several other customers were behind me, when I heard someone say, “May I have some paper towels please.”  The deli man handed the paper towels over the counter, and a tall silver-haired man, stepped forward from behind me and took them.   I turned around and watched him bend down and wipe up a spill on the floor behind me. As I lifted my eyes, I noticed another woman watching him too.

As I didn’t hear or see the spill occur, I asked her, “Did he do it?”

“No, some little kid dropped it from a sippy cup,” the woman, who was about my age, said. The child was nowhere to be seen.

She and I looked at each other, smiled, and shared an unspoken, “This guy is a keeper.”

I spoke first, “Some woman is a lucky girl.”

She said, “I don’t know if my husband would have done that.”

I nodded my head in agreement.

I’m guessing that the same thoughts that flashed through my mind also flashed through her mind as we went about the day’s business.  We were probably thinking about the men in our lives, our fathers, our husbands, our sons. Yes. I nodded in agreement when she commented about her husband; but, I did that just to be congenial. I like to think that my men would have done the same thing as the good looking stranger in the supermarket.

 Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

“Please Send Your Child With…”

Photo Credit: --char-- via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: –char– via Compfight cc

“Ma,” my son said, “Hannah needs to bring a bag of cleaned parsley for her Sunday school’s model Passover Seder.” Hannah is our granddaughter, and Jerry and I were in Arizona visiting with her and our son, David.

The Seder is a symbolic meal celebrated by Jewish people to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery and Egypt. At Hannah’s Sunday school the teachers were going to conduct a model Seder to give the kids a feel for the larger scale Seder that would take place in their homes on Passover. Symbolic items on the Seder Plate are used as props to tell the Passover Story. A Seder plate includes: hard-boiled egg, salt water, matzoh, lamb shank, charoseth (a yummy mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine), horseradish (bitter herb), and the aforementioned parsley.

A home Passover meal is a BIG meal with many courses, and it takes a whole lot of preparation. Here are some sample foods I have served at various Seders given by Jerome and me over the years. First we put out the Seder plate as described above. Everybody loves my charoseth on their matzoh.

Then it’s time for some serious eating and the first courses: gefilte fish with horseradish; chicken soup with matzoh balls

Then,  the main meal: a chicken dish which changes every couple of years; matzoh stuffing; brisket with red wine and tomato paste; potato kugel (casserole with eggs, potato, onions, matzoh); tsimmes(casserole with carrots and/or sweet potatoes, raisins/prunes; brown sugar); green vegetable such as asparagus or brussel sprouts.

And lastly, desserts: an apple matzoh kugel; brandied peach compote cake (see epicurious.com); chocolate covered matzoh, assorted macaroons.

We have served from 6 to 26 friends and relatives and I cook everything myself…from scratch (except the gefilte fish, matzoh, and macaroons).

No one has complained because they all keep coming back; so I think I’m a reasonably proficient cook. Also, fyi, I do Thanksgiving every year for the same gang plus about 15 more folks. Everyone says I make it look easy.

I’m confident about my food preparation—until my granddaughter needs to bring parsley— TO SCHOOL—then I go crazy!

I ask myself:

  • Should the parsley be the good kind (Italian flat leaf) or should we buy the curly parsley like my mother used? Maybe the curly parsley is the authentic Jewish parsley?
  • Should I trim the long stems off the parsley? If so, how much? Is the parsley on the Seder plate supposed to have stems, or is it just the leaves?
  • Do I send a whole bunch so each little kid can get a sprig? Or should I just send a sprig for the Seder plate?
  • When should I wash the parsley?  The night before? The morning of?
  • If I wash the parsley, and I wipe it with paper towel, should I put the moist paper towel in with the parsley in the plastic bag overnight?
  • The next morning when Hannah takes her zip lock bag of parsley to Sunday school, should I leave the damp paper towel in the bag? Or does that look sloppy? Should I re-wrap the parsley with a dry paper towel? Should I just put parsley without paper towel in the bag?
  • Lastly, should I put the zip lock bag inside another little plastic bag?

Surely, I can’t be the only parent/grandparent who worries about this stuff? Am I?