Prairie Messenger Header

Around the Kitchen Table

Maureen Weber


Summer, the season of slow-moving RVs on the highway — you know some of the vehicles you pass have a nicer kitchen than the one in your home.

We’re not campers, but still, summer brings the world up close — you feel it right against your skin instead of behind streaky glass, like in winter. There are discoveries outside in summer. Like how the south side of town where we used to live smells of garden peas and dill even though the old people who lived in those neighbourhoods 20-some years ago are long gone, their gardens overgrown with carpet weeds.

There’s yard work. Never. Ending. I never thought I would be happy about rain, but it means a blessed holiday from the yard, even if the weeds will be thicker tomorrow. Thunderheads are building in the west like a floating mountain range, pulled sideways by an unseen current. Maybe we’ll be in for a show.

We have a patch out front where Russ seeded grass, and it looked pretty hopeless, so I planted the extra portulaca seedlings I had along the edge, imagining a colourful border. If you want grass to flourish, plant portulaca. Those poor guys are straining their orange and pink heads above the tall thick grass in a futile attempt to catch some sun. Only inches away there is bare ground. At least the flowers in the actual flowerbed are faring better. The gazanias (thanks for the suggestion, Susan!) look like the Swiss Guard. I’m thinking Michelangelo designed them.

In summer you can lunch outside, but in the city count on extra guests — wasps that linger over salad and don’t know when to get back to work. I once pushed part of a turkey sandwich over to the edge of the table just to distract them, and one of the wasps lifted off clutching a piece of meat. Apart from human flesh, I didn’t know they were meat eaters.

A mini-murder of crows has moved into my neighbourhood and one or two have been visiting our birch some evenings after supper. They can be raucous, and then not. I’m startled by the gentle phhht of feathers as a glossy black bird glides across the deck while I am sipping a beer.

An old convertible decorated with plastic pompom flowers and filled with a wedding party drives by with much honking and waving. The thought that people might still make pompom flowers and decorate their wedding car rather than renting a limo gives me hope.

My bike gets me out and about on long summer evenings. It’s interesting how complete strangers will smile and say hello when you cruise by, and some you do know set their faces to grim and walk in military fashion, purposefully looking neither left nor right, as if a greeting would cause them actual pain.

It no longer hurts to visit the neighbourhood of my childhood, and I’ve been biking through now and again. Bernie still lives a few doors down from my parents’ home. As a kid I remember his front yard being a rush of daisies he would occasionally mow down. Please don’t mow the daisies. These days his house looks spiffy with its fresh coat of orange and white paint, and the front yard, to my utter delight, has been taken over by towering pink, fuchsia and red hollyhocks. It’s a happy sight. And there are still a few daisies.

Several houses down our old yard always appears to need mowing no matter when I ride by, evidence of Dad’s careful tending long gone (I have sympathy for those who can’t keep up with their yards). Dad used to keep the Amur maple and the mock orange neatly trimmed, but now the maple has reached beyond the rooftop and the mock orange is scraggly. Even so, it bloomed on my birthday, as it has for many years.

Dad left us exactly 10 years ago — July 15, 2006. I see colleagues of his mowing their lawns, or out for a walk. My mother has been gone 15 years. Her acquaintances celebrate their 80th birthdays and I drift for a moment into thinking of what could be . . . but then anything other than blessing what was is pointless. Get busy living.

This summer we planted an Amur maple and a mock orange as an homage to Dad’s garden, and a Korean lilac to grow some new memories. And like these new shrubs, the memories are growing. Our daughter Leigh is now 31 weeks pregnant and in two weeks we will celebrate our son Gerard’s marriage to Sarah.

May your summer also be blessed with cherished moments that grow into memories.