In the small backyard surrounding my parents’ crumbling house that might be foreclosed in a week, mother wishes we could be the pallbearers for the Weber grill that is rusted to shit and falling apart, to relocate it out of the walking path, and since the five foot chiminea is in the way, to relocate that as well. “Let’s do it,” I say, and she looks at me with slight surprise, because in all of my 29 years I don’t think I’ve ever volunteered for manual labor outside in the sun, especially not involving their backyard. As a child I grumbled while weeding their organic garden and picking fruits and vegetables that my dad grew with some kind of magic that made the largest, juiciest, most delicious produce I’d ever eaten. My father’s garden has now become just a single row because his knees are so painfully inflamed he can’t walk up stairs, much less run the tiller and crawl around to pull dandelions.
I get up, feeling the sunshine on my shoulders in my blue tank top and shorts, and scoot the heavy chiminea off the bricks on which it has been sitting for years; grey concrete buried an inch deep in the loam. Dad marks off a square for us to place the new stones and we have to use a two-prong weeding hoe to dig the dry dirt and rocks to create a level surface on which to lay the stones. Dad wants to do it himself but I keep asking him if I can do it. I figure I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff like this next year when I’m camping with the Rennies and I need the practice; besides, my body can use a little physical activity and his body has had almost enough.
The gray stones sit a little higher than the ground next to them, and we three pick up the chiminea and move it to sit atop. Next comes the task of easing the collapsing grill a few feet away to the other side of the patio, which will be its final resting place. At its new location, it refuses to sit level because of a missing wheel and the legs that have come completely rusted loose from the top. I dig a hole for one of the legs and water the ground so it will form a hold on the one leg that’s too tall, we place bricks all around the wheels and dad takes a two foot piece of wood and places it as ballast to keep the grill from falling over.
Meanwhile mother is filling in the holes we created by moving the two heavy objects and raking the wood chips around. She shows me the “dry riverbed” she created that runs from their pond all the way to the end of the patio where the grass starts. “You can see Flower Town from the Garden of Eden now,” and we go sit by the pond in the chairs surrounded by climbing ivy vines, colorful flowers which I don’t know names for, near the shady tree that has a face, looking across their backyard which is now free of the ugly obstructions. The chiminea looks like a factory on the shore of the river next to “Wisteria Island.”
My six-year-old daughter comes outside and says, “Wow, it looks so good! I can’t even remember how it used to look!” and I’m thinking the same thing; sometimes when you make a change, it’s so natural that you realize it should have always been that way and you can’t even picture it differently. The verdant landscape does resemble an enchanted little Garden of Eden with a child frolicking in the greenery and two dogs running wild, drinking from the pond.
They are going to hang a swing for their granddaughter where the chiminea and grill used to be.