The laneway is long. From the road it appears to be another road. Only older, over- grown and not regularly maintained. If not for the crippled old mailbox roadside, or the odd lean-to style bus shelter, no one would know the path lead to someone’s home. The mailbox reads Weald, the family name. Under the name is a home-made sign, green painted barn board, hung with frayed twine claiming “Milkweed Lane.” The address, rural route two, concession one, line one lot 26 Juniper Valley township. Everyone who lives in or around Juniper Valley will have the same postal code.
It is almost four o-clock when the school bus makes its last stop. The Weald children depart and it is a relief to be home. Especially this weekend, it is the Thanksgiving long weekend and everyone is excited for the fall fair. Of the five Weald children Lauren is the youngest and in grade three. She breaks into a run as soon as her feet hit the gravel. She won’t keep the pace all the way to the house. Next are the twins. Joey and Josh, not identical. They are fifth graders and have saved apples and carrots from their lunches to treat the neighbors horse. William is the eldest and in grade ten. The family calls him Billy but lately he’s been asking everyone to ” please refer to him as Bill.” Lastly is Bethany, grade eight – almost a teenager and Beth for short.
Beth walks slowly up the lane-way, slower than her siblings. They tease her, calling her a dawdler. Laughing she answers back that she is strolling. The hike to the house is a little less than a kilometer but this time of year it is very agreeable. The gravel is dry, the sky is clear, the air fresh.
The weeds that grow in abundance along each side of the lane-way are brown and have gone to seed. In particular the milkweed. When school began last month the seed pods had still been small and green. Now, in October, the pods are bursting. Tawny and tan, crunchy and split wide open with fluffy white down spilling from the gap. Beth picks one pulling it open for Lauren to inspect. The girls stroke the silky soft seeds lovingly as if it were a pet. Then silently and in sync, the siblings separate. Each choosing a side. Beth and the twins on the west side of the driveway, Bill and Lauren drift over to the east. Without words and without prompting the two sisters and three brothers drop their school things. With a single nod from Billy a coordinated milkweed disruption is unleashed. Shaking and shifting, agitating the release of the fleece. There is a feeling of delighted satisfaction as the seeds litter the sky like snow falling in reverse.
For the Weald kids it is a miraculous event happening only in autumn. Patiently waited for, imagined with anticipation. A single spellbinding moment full of pleasure and fascination . Beth thinks this must be what is meant when you hear “the best things in life are free.” Of course the seeds will pollute the property with more weeds. Mother will sigh and plead with them to stop. “Please, leave the milkweed alone. We have more than enough weeds without the help of you rascals.”