This week the city paid us a visit and removed and replaced four squares of our sidewalk. My big beautiful ash in the front lawn has over time decided its roots needed more room than the old sidewalk was allowing. Pushing up its roots and reclaiming its territory caused several of the sidewalk squares to get just a bit too far out of level. We now have a new smooth sidewalk and some new built in space for the tree. But that is not the point of this piece.
Over twenty years ago, the same situation existed as the then much smaller ash was just beginning to demand some room. Back then the city had come out and marked the squares to be replaced with a chalked “X”. We had three squares marked that time and were calculating the cost we would be forced to cover in replacing them. My daughter, Kathryn, was five at the time and quick to notice patterns. As I arrived home from teaching the night before the city crew was scheduled to appear, there was Kathryn out on the front lawn, sidewalk chalk in hand. It didn’t take long to see what she had been up to. There laid before me my entire length of sidewalk beautifully adorned with a big white “X” on each and every square. Kathryn, beaming from ear to ear, proudly exclaiming, “Look daddy, I finished their picture for them.”
Oops….after complimenting my budding Van Gogh, one should never starve the artist, I grabbed a scrub brush and the hose and began the task of removing her handiwork. That of course would be the moment my neighbor appeared admonishing me on the crime he assumed I was committing. After all, he explained, he was being forced to replace six squares. Once I had assured him I was not responsible for anymore than my three squares, I turned my attention back to the task.
Let me tell you, it is much harder removing sidewalk chalk than one assumes. To my credit, I had at least dimmed the effect and that next morning, when the city crew arrived bright and early, I was there explaining my young artist’s talent and dedication. The three squares were re-identified, removed and replaced, and my wife and I vowed to find new outlets for our daughter’s budding art skills.
Turns out all IS well that ends well. I guess we just “chalked” it up to experience.