When I remember my years as a small boy, when the days that my knees were not afflicted by some updated graze or bruise of sorts were few and far between, I also think of grass seeds.
As children, we are adept at analyzing our natural topography for its fun-ness factor. It’s part of the early hunter-gatherer instinct. You make sure that you’ve eaten enough, and then you go out and play. And just as I am sure that the first caveman who found a way to turn a dangerous, slippery riverbank into a giant mudslide was amply rewarded, so were the entrepreneurial of us children who decided to take the plunge: to ride our skateboard down that new sub-development hill, to step on to that undeveloped plot of land with its innumerable “boodgies” (hardened sand that makes for effective, if non-lethal projectiles) or the first to roly-poly down that particularly green hill. I was generally a sucker for the roly-polies.
The trade-off with grass hills of course is not so much the danger of the slope and potential oncoming vehicles (as with skateboards) or the angry wrath of future homeowners (as with undeveloped boodgie mines). It is the absolute certainty of death by itchiness. It is the knowledge that for each moment of giddy excitement, as your body tumbles over and over down that grassy embankment before you collapse at the bottom of the slope, there are hundreds (if not millions, for all we knew) of tiny little grass seeds, gleefully latching on to the hairs of your skin. It is the knowledge that scratch and wash as you might, you will be itchy for quite some time following, and that it will be miserable.
But I almost never hesitated in taking that plunge and leaping down the slope. I don’t even know if I got the entrepreneurs award for being first to roll–the riches of childhood friendship or a ruffling of the hair by some impressed Australian father figure—but it didn’t matter. I loved the roly-poly sensation. The power of the roll, the whirling of my senses into some giant tumble dryer. Like a free amusement ride without the vomit. Or simply twirling about until one falls over, except less masochistic and with the added bonus that gravity is involved.
I remember those grass seeds and the way I scratched at them. It was torturous and painful, but I would suck it up knowingly beforehand, then proceed to mutter in itching agony post roly. And now, I still cherish that grass, despite my interaction with it being so sadly limited. Mine today is a world of car seats and carpeted floors, of astroturf town community centers (surely a nod to impending virtual apocalypse, or perhaps utilitarian urban planning accidental genius), of freshly-vacuumed security. In fact, one of the few places I have built into my current routine existence that is genuinely grassy is Merriweather Post Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue.
Last night, I saw a great American rock band called Wilco at the Pavilion. The grass, alas, was wet from an inopportune summer rainstorm. But I enjoyed it nonetheless, the grass and I, together briefly, albeit through the precautionary medium of blanket and plastic. There is nothing that feels more like Summer in Howard County, Maryland than a lawn ticket to a great band at Merriweather, rain or sunshine. It feels almost like home, like a romanticized childhood spent wisely roly-polying down grassy hills. And that’s something I’ll always cherish.
I should also make mention that Wilco played one of my favorite tunes—“California Stars”—as their opening encore last night. Naturally, we looked up and counted stars: all six of them. Thanks for that one, guys. I’m sure you knew I was hoping.