There is a playground near my home. Children are playing there usually, their parents often hovering around. I avoid the assembly and invariably go past the playground. Strangely, it was different today. Nobody was there. I looked at the large playground, covered with a thick carpet of grass. The huge expanse of green suddenly made me nostalgic.
In a second, I went back years. Our father liked flowers, and the gardener put fresh flowers in a vase in each room. Except for mine – for everybody knew I preferred trees and plants to flowers. The gardener had placed a coy little plant in a corner of my room. I had nothing against red, yellow or purple, but green was my favorite color. A towering tree was incomparable, but an expanse of a green lawn was the prettiest thing imaginable.
For a while, we lived in a house that had a lawn next to it. It was my favorite place. I could wander there; if nobody stopped me, I could lie down there. Then we moved to a larger house that had many charms but no lawn. Fortunately, it was next to a university that had a large lawn. Some students periodically loitered there, but early morning and late evening nobody lingered. The guard would be busy making his breakfast or dinner – I could see from the outside – and I would comfortably slip in unobserved. It was a large lawn and its manicured grass was a feast for the eyes. For the feet too. I would leave my shoes aside, then walk barefoot on the dew-softened lawn.
Father had an endless interest in whatever I did and, when I told him about the lawn, he came along early morning with me one weekend. Instead of avoiding the guard, he just walked up to him and said, “I believe you have a beautiful lawn. Could I have a look?” The guard not only opened the gate wide, he even saluted Father and welcomed him. While I ran barefoot, to and fro, across the lawn, Father kept walking briskly around the lawn. When we came back and Mother asked where we had been, Father joked and said, “I was running on the university lawn. But your son is lazy, he only walked.” As Mother turned to me with a questioning look, I said, “Why don’t you come with us the next time? Then you can see what happens.”
As we entered the university compound, we stood together at the edge of the extended emerald of a superbly-kept lawn and I said, “Ma, do you remember the large lawn next to our old house?”
“Of course, I do,” she said. “I got busy every morning making breakfast for our family before I left for work. I never had a chance to accompany you and your dad to the university and see the lawn there. I never knew who ran and who just walked.” She remembered!
I recalled Father’s joke and said, “He walked, and I ran. But that mattered little. We were together all the time. We did everything together.”
This breezy afternoon, I was glad I had strayed from my usual path. The lawn brought me a strange calm. I walked quietly. And alone. Not quite. Some antique memories, like old scars you barely see but can still feel, kept me company.