Working The Yard and No Kids In Sight
My brother takes good care of his lawn and since he's out of town I'm in charge of watering the yard and flowers. Tonight I did just that. A couple of days ago I took it upon myself to cut the grass at the house. I haven't done yard work in a while partly because of my allergies, but mostly because I don't own a house with a yard. Now I've done some yard work two days in one week. I miss it.
Don't get me wrong. I hated cutting the grass when I was a kid. Especially because my mom would wake my ass up at about 8am to get started. During the summer the temperature in McAllen, Texas loves getting into the 100's. I could see the sun smirking while I pushed the Briggs & Straton lawn mower, carried the gas weed eater (much better than electric), or used a simple asadon to work the yard. The sun would then laugh as it saw me hunched over ripping the weeds out with my bare hands, without fear of espinas sticking me.
My older brother would somehow convince all of the barrio kids that it was cool to cut the grass and trim the trees, when we lived in El Campito, the McAllen labor camp. I guess everyone figured the sooner we finished with the yard, the sooner we would all get to play. And that's the thing. We were always outside playing. We finished as soon as possible on the rare occasion that the kids didn't help so that we could join them in playing baseball, marbles, football, stickball, or bote sonado. Even when we moved out of the campo and lived out of the projects - the kids were still there. I'd crank up the lawm mower and there they were. Riding their bikes or throwing the football around.
Not anymore. Not here. My mom was in town when I was cutting the grass and she looked across my brother's neighborhood and said, "porque no salen los niños?" I don't know. I wonder if it's a South Texas thing, a Mexican thing, or maybe even a poor person thing.
The neighbors here say hi to each other, but they don't know each other. My friends' parents in Dallas don't even know their neighbors. I bet my sister in Dallas couldn't name three of her neighbors. I go to McAllen and my dad is across the street talking to Juan, or Jaime is out working on his yard next to us taking his time because he's stopping to chat with my mom, or Ivan and his three junior high friends are out waving around a woman's calzones which they've placed on a stick all the meanwhile making sure my mom doesn't see them. Who knows where they found them. The point is: it's a community. People are outside. Talking. Evesdropping. Getting to know each other. Getting after and keeping and eye out on each other's kids.
I lived in a pretty swanky area in Dallas, so I never saw families. I had a little brother though and he lived in East Dallas - the barrio. People were always sitting out on their porches when I would go pick him up. The kids were running around. It was 10pm - but they were outside. Maybe the house was too small for all of them to be inside. You know, some families cram chingos of people. Maybe the kids didn't own an X-box or a Nintendo, but I suspect they did. Maybe they didn't have A/C. Who the hell knows. All I know is that they were outside.
I miss seeing kids playing outside. I usually take my brother's dog out for a walk or just play fetch with her after work. There are no kids. A mom will brisk by pushing a stroller every now and then. She turns her head the other way in order to avoid eye contact. I don't know what's going on.