I moved into my home in North Woodmere almost 40 years ago. I was pregnant with my son, Paul. My daughter Joanna was 2 1⁄2. It wasn’t easy moving into a big home, chasing a 2-year-old in my condition, but somehow I survived it.
I wanted a home desperately so my children could play in a backyard. Growing up in an apartment house in Brooklyn, I felt deprived not having my own grassy area to play in. To a child it was a world of cement and bricks unless you went to a public park.
My children spent time in our backyard on the swings, playing ball, and doing all the delightful things people with backyards do. I entertained and enjoyed restful afternoons in the sun. My dad loved it. He made the ride here from Brooklyn every chance he got. I made him his favorite lunches and we spent time just talking. He became my best friend. My mom came on the weekends and she never sat still, ready to push one of the kids on the swings or run after a ball. She was a grandma action figure, always on the go. Eventually they moved to Florida. The grass became bare without them. As I got older, the backyard became inconsequential. The kids lost interest. For years the backyard became just a burden to maintain. The gardeners spent more time there than I did.
That all changed when my granddaughters came to visit. My Annie is 2 1/2 and Maya is 14 months. Their parents came with large and small balls to play with. Suddenly the backyard became a child’s paradise. I felt myself in a time tunnel traveling to the 1970s when my kids were young. I remembered my parents throwing the balls back and forth, yelling “Yay!” with each catch. Now here I am, grandma to two little gals who can have all the fun in the world in this precious patch of grass.
Those of us with homes for many years may take the amenities of suburban living for granted. But when the next generation comes along and delights in a simple space of newly mowed grass, it makes living here worthwhile. I hope the time comes when I will pull out three lawn chairs, sip some iced tea and have long conversations with Ann and Maya. They will tell me about their schools, boyfriends and, most importantly, what their interests are and what they love to do. I hope they never forget Grandma’s house and all the special times they had here.
What my brother nurtured blooms again
Recently, I was thinking of my brother, Bradden Burns, who passed way too young at the age of 59 from a heart attack. He had spent part of the 1970s and early ’80s acting and singing on off-Broadway stages and his last years were spent in South Carolina. Growing up and as a young adult, he lived on Long Island, including four years at Adelphi University.
I flashed suddenly on a happy image of Brad, working on a small garden he had developed, next to his new home. I wondered what would happen now to his carefully tended “field.” And then, I remembered.
In the 1990s, when he was living at our mother’s house in Nassau County, he planted a wide variety of flowers, perennials and shrubs. For years after he moved, nothing bloomed, but when I began taking care of our mom’s house a few years ago, I started a hobby of revitalizing the lawn — my way of thanking the land where I had been a little boy. I added hundred of pounds of topsoil, organics and other fertilizer. The grass I planted was resplendent. But to my amazement, flowers my brother had first seeded nearly two decades earlier and had lain dormant all that time appeared the next spring.
Perhaps every garden can bloom again, with just a little care, attention and time.
James H. Burns,