vi·gnette | \ vin-ˈyet , vēn-\
Definition of vignette
1a: a picture (such as an engraving or photograph) that shades off gradually into the surrounding paper
b: the pictorial part of a postage stamp design as distinguished from the frame and lettering
2a: a short descriptive literary sketch
b: a brief incident or scene (as in a play or movie)
3: a running ornament (as of vine leaves, tendrils, and grapes) put on or just before a title page or at the beginning or end of a chapteralso : a small decorative design or picture so placed.
It’s the first day of school, September 3, 2019. For 12 years and more, we’ve lived beside an historic public school in downtown Kitchener. Our house is the last one at the end of the school yard, on the street that runs beside.
On Sundays when the weather is good, just about any time of the year, there is a diverse group of kids who play soccer together on the school yard pitch. They are as young as nine or 10, and as old as 16 or 17. Sometimes my son would join them, and they always made room for one more. They play together, switching up their teams. Some of the kids are in bare feet. Most wear the jersey of their favourite team. It’s like a mini World Cup, nearly in my back yard.
Just about any evening, the school yard is the playground for dog owners who want their pets to get some exercise. The school yard is fenced on three sides, grassy and big, so it makes a good spot to let dogs run loose, chase balls and tumble in the grass.
It’s recess time, and today the kids are energetic, affable with each other. Makeshift teams of kids play soccer, while others play by themselves, or in small groups. One male teacher – a heavily bearded young guy who bears the hallmarks of the generational change in the workforce (big beard, jeans and sneakers) – waves at me through the fence, as he makes friends with a little one playing in the dirt by himself. I’m sitting on my deck listening to the kids’ shouts to each other, their laughter lifting on the wind to fill the afternoon air. They run and jump and kick the ball, reading each other as strangers do. It’s the first day of school, but there are friends to be made.
Back in the late spring, just before school was out, I lay in my new hammock – this was before the squirrels ate it – reading a book. The hammock was tucked under two trees at the back of our property, right beside the high retaining wall and chain-link fence that separates the high ground of the school’s playground, and our lower back yard. So, I was close. The kids could see me. They peered through the fence at me.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m reading,” I replied.
“Are you a monkey?” one asked, quite sincerely.
“No, but I have two monkeys. One of them goes to your school,” I chuckled. My daughter was finishing Grade 6 at the school, preparing to move on to a middle school, which she started today.
“Who is it?” the little one asked. She couldn’t have been more than six.
I told her my daughter’s first name, and said she had red hair. “Do you know her?” I asked.
“No,” they both replied.
The children’s teacher strolled over, wondering with whom the kids were speaking. “What are you doing, girls?” she asked them.
They turned, faces uplifted and happy. “We’re talking to her. She has two monkeys.”
I laughed outright. “We’re just having a conversation. My one monkey goes here and starts Grade 7 next year,” I assured her. “My other one’s at KCI.”
She laughed and turned to chat with the girls, but they’d already run off.
“You have a lovely back yard,” she said before she moved off.
The school yard has been a source of entertainment for me over the years. I love the sound of the kids at play. Recently, we had to get our roofing company to return, to fix some overflows because of shingling that had washed off the roof into our eavestrough. They arrived at recess time.
“Wow, what a lot of noise. That must be awful to listen to,” said the supervisor.
“In the contrary,” I said. “I love the sound of kids playing with each other. It’s a happy sound.”
I added, “And it’s quiet on the weekends.”