Happy As The Grass Was Green
The Simple Joys Of Childhood And Of Life
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green …
These lines from Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill come to mind this morning, as I watch my two grandchildren playing in the backyard. The sun flickers through the boughs of the trees, on and off with light. The trees become our friends; the branches and leaves twinkle in the sun. With children, days are long and languorous. The children lie on their backs in the grass, staring at clouds and pointing, whispering together. They have such a fine time doing nothing much at all. I am taken back to my own youth. My grandchildren are here with me for a few weeks, freed now from the last year’s grief.
Their smiles are genuine. They are happy and strong and well. Little Brennan is almost 8; Cassidy is 4. Already they have learned life is a balance of joy and pain, laughter and grief. But the healing power of love and the human spirit is tremendous. We are led out of the darkness and back into the light. We are restored.
In the background all day long, their voices hum. Their language is simple, the language of youth — full of whispers and laughter. Usually they’re friends, best friends. This morning they’re playing with sticks — cave men, they call it. Their play contains the weapons of sticks but they are gentle with each other.
From the Dollar Store, I bought wondrous things – with $20 I found a week’s worth of fun — crayons, and paints, coloring books, plastic bats and balls, plastic golf clubs and golf balls. I bought a blue plastic pool, only six inches deep, but somehow it provides hours of joy as Cassidy steps in and out of it in the heat of the day. The water enchants her, takes her to another world of fantasy. She and my dog Rosie are BFFs. Rose likes the water just as much as Cassidy.
In my hours and days with them, I too am a child again. There is a bliss to it. We put down our phones. We turn off the t.v. We are in the moment. We see the very pattern of the bark on the tree. We reach up and grab a crabapple, biting into it and taste its sweet tartness. We dangle our legs in the cool water. We giggle. We eat popsicles. We are indeed happy as the grass is green.
Our neighbor Henry chatted with the children yesterday. He sat with us in the dappled sun on the back deck. He brought Cassidy and Brennan each a special gift from a candy factory. He’s just returned from a visit to Germany where he saw his hometown again and visited the place in Holland where he and his wife honeymooned more than 60 years past. He is rejuvenated by a visit to his past, looks fit and tan, busies himself in the yard again. He’s harvested the garlic. The flowers begin to show their autumn selves.
Henry turns to me and says, “You know, I hear the sounds of children laughing and playing in the backyard. It makes me smile to hear it. When my boys were young, the neighborhood was full of children.” We smile and know the power of that simple thought. These laughing children playing in the yard light up the world.
For the children he has German chocolate and gummy bears from Haribo, the company that prides itself on making children happy. And it does. The children are delighted. It makes them smile and smile.
It’s the beauty of childhood — such simple pleasures. As I think of it, that’s the beauty of life too. Simple things. Now as I look back I see the real beauty of life is in the simplest daily things — the birdsong in morning, the deer standing under my bird feeder, a cup of coffee, sitting in the sun on the deck, sitting on the bench at the Lakewood beach looking out at the lake on an August day, the sailboats buoyed and dancing on the small waves, the sun tipping them with light. Singing a song with children in the car. Throwing the ball to a dog. Walking in the fields with dogs.
Life is complex and hard. We are faced with such trials and sometimes torments. A friend was just diagnosed with cancer. She faces it with courage and hope. We all want things and money and success but really all that counts, all that really counts, is the simple delight we find in daily life. It’s the simple pleasures that amount to everything.
The children sleep five feet away. I like hearing their breathing. I tuck them in and kiss them on the forehead and read them Hansel and Gretel and The Jungle Book. Out of the scenes of my life, these are the best moments, the sweetest. Right now, right now.
In the sun that is young once only, Time let me play and be, Golden in the mercy of his means …
And so we are.