Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff


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My grandfather believed in keeping his family close. It was the old country in him. So, when he settled in Sault Ste Marie he set about creating a home, a compound actually, where his three sons and their growing families could live and work – never more than a few steps from each other.

He bought a corner property with two houses separated by a courtyard that had a garden behind it. The corner house became a barbershop for my two uncles and a candy/variety store for my aunt. My parents lived upstairs. Everybody else lived across the courtyard in my grandfather’s house. It had a big kitchen for Wednesday and Sunday dinners and the only access to the cold cellar and wine cellar under the courtyard.

On spring, summer and fall mornings my grandfather would tend his garden then sit on an old chrome-framed kitchen chair with the stuffing coming through the cracked plastic seat, hose in hand, watering down the courtyard. I would bring him his espresso.

After he drank it down in three gulps he got up and systematically started at one end,  driving the water down the surface towards the street. Then he would walk back to the top and repeat his actions. First he set the nozzle to shoot out one tight line of water…to loosen the stubborn dirt. Then he would go back over everything with the nozzle set to a spray.

This he did until he was satisfied that the complete expanse of the courtyard was clean. Job done, he would sit and gaze over the wet, glistening concrete surface, quite pleased with himself. When I asked why he did this every morning he looked at me, twisted his gray, handlebar moustache and said, “You need to water concrete every day to keep it fresh. Otherwise it will melt.”

As a gullible youth, I believed him. “I didn’t know that cement was so delicate,” I answered. There was silence.

He looked down at me and shook his head. “No. No. No. Not cement. Concrete.”

“Same difference,” I shot back quickly.

“Adamo, cement and concrete are not the same.”

I was bewildered. “Doesn’t matter. Does it?”

“Cement,” he said, “ is what they use to make concrete. Gravel, sand, cement…you mix them together, with water, and they all turn hard, hard like concrete…because of the water. Which is why you always have to keep your concrete wet.”

Now, as a kid, none of this was important to me. It was just an impish grandfather setting his uneducated grandson straight. But after that lesson, he let me water the concrete courtyard a couple of times a week.

And now, as owner of my own home with a long, concrete driveway, I do what he did those many years ago. I get out my power washer (something he would have loved) and hose down my concrete to keep it fresh.


People passing by look at me like I’m crazy. But I just smile as I wash the dirt down to the street. There are others on my street that also have concrete driveways. But mine is the freshest and cleanest. Because they never water theirs.

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  1. […] WATERING YOUR CONCRETE June 2009 3 […]

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