Knee-High by the Fourth of July

Growing up, I often heard the phrase “knee-high by the Fourth of July” when adults talked about the summer prospects for native corn. Yesterday I walked up and down the narrow streets of the Back Central neighborhood between Central and Lawrence streets, which I like to call “The Garden District.” In several yards the corn was as high as my chest, the hardy leaves spilling off stalks like bright green streamers. Robust home gardens overflowed with plants that would soon yield peppers, broccoli, onions, cucumbers, and more. Hard green tomatoes showed on their plants, some as big as an egg. The ubiquitous grapevines look especially prolific this year, maybe due to the heavy snow and rain. In the green canopies it is easy to see the emerging grape clusters.

The neighborhood flowers advance more quickly than the vegetables and fruit trees. The flowers outnumber the food gardens, too. In some places, there are impressive displays of both. Red and white roses, porch pots of orange-and-black tiger lilies, pink geraniums in plastic pails, swaths of black-eyed Susans, and cosmos in many colors brightened the densely packed streets, several of which have been scraped down to prepare for resurfacing this summer. A sidewalk repair program is also underway. Kudos to City leaders for getting this area on the priority list for road improvements.

At St. Anthony’s Church, multi-colored pennants and decorations on the facade make a festive scene. The Portuguese gift shop across the street had patrons at 9 a.m. Red-and-green youth-sized soccer shirts fill the window. American flags of all sizes were on display for the weekend on flagpoles, projecting from second-floor windows sills, stuck in flower pots. On Kinsman Street, I saw three fire-fighters and two EMTs return calmly to their vehicles. A door to a gray apartment house was open, and I heard a child crying inside. The emergency situation appeared to be under control. I didn’t see a lot of people on the street on this early Sunday morning, but the neighborhood was beginning to stir. A few older men were leaning on their front-yard fences, probably wondering about the unfamiliar guy walking around at that hour.