I have previously mentioned the young girls with rakes and faces but no names.
They had names then, of course, and friends and schoolbooks and favorite candy bars and maybe posters on the wall.
But they passed through the history of Hope Street — this history of Hope Street, anyway — without anyone writing their names down. They do not seem to have made it onto my grandpa’s calendar, for instance.
Here at my computer in the autumn of 2016 they are only images on a thumbdrive of my grandpa’s old photos … one-dimensional children in short-sleeved T-shirts in the tall fall grass, doing a neighborly favor.
(Did they shiver and complain about their lot in life? No. Most likely they were quite comfortable.)
I imagine they were my grandparents’ next-door neighbors, possibly even from the light-colored house in the rear of the photo above. (The folks on the other side of my grandparents had a son my dad’s age.)
If I had a 1975 city directory at my fingertips, I could probably find out their names, or their parents’, quickly enough.
I also imagine their house disappeared in the same condominium sweep that tore down my grandparents’. I wonder if they have been back to Hope Street lately, or if there is nothing for them there.
If you’re reading this post, you already know the backstory. My grandfather suffered a heart attack in 1971 that required him to scale back his household activities as much as possible.
The house at 1107 Hope Street had a good-sized back yard and a lot of trees. Raking all those leaves would have been one of those jobs my grandpa looked to outsource, either to professional yardsmiths or neighborhood urchins.
How many years of help did my grandpa get from the girls next door? Maybe not many. The older one, especially, looks to be approaching the age where she can invent plausible other things to do besides squatting in the grass to clean up somebody else’s yard.
Of course I wonder where they are now, and what they are doing. It is that time of year, after all.
Perhaps they have kids who are bracing to spend the coming weekends with rakes in their hands (though some back-of-the-envelope math suggests that the girls in these photos are probably empty-nesters already. Time does fly.)
Perhaps they have grown into the sort of people who refuse to dirty their hands with leaves, and hire yard companies to do the work. “I’ve bagged enough leaves for one lifetime,” they sniff.
Or maybe, in a different lawn with different trees in a different state, they are still at it. Perhaps they even enjoy it. Maybe, for reasons they can’t quite remember, it reminds them of good deeds and hard work well-appreciated.