For a long time no one mowed the back yard. The grass grew and grew until it was almost as tall as me. Being four years old, that meant the grass was at most three feet tall, probably two, which is pretty high by most modern standards. At that time dad still hadn’t set the foundation for the addition to the house, an addition that wouldn’t happen while we still lived there, so the whole back yard was unkempt grass and along the fence some bushes.
One day, when mom was doing the laundry, she looked at the back yard told me, “That grass is so high Tarzan’s going to make his next movie in our back yard.” This was the greatest news any four year old could get: Tarzan would be coming to my house to make a movie in my back yard!
Somewhere in the back of my mind thoughts wondering whether there would be enough room for him bubbled up. I mean really, there were no trees back there, how was he going to swing around? But I pushed those thoughts out as soon as they appeared. After all, mom said he’d be coming to make a movie, so she had already talked to him on the phone, right? And how had he found out about our yard? Dad probably told him. (They knew all the famous people.)
Although those questions still gnawed at me, my excitement never lessened, my faith never waned. He was coming to make a movie: he was the king of the jungle, and our back yard was as jungle as he was likely to get around here. And most of his movies were done just a couple of streets over, like everything else.
For days, I bragged to my friends that Tarzan would come to my house sometime soon. They were excited. I beamed. We all wanted to meet him, all wanted to be in the movie, all wanted to swing on vines. We even practiced our Tarzan screams, much to the chagrin of our parents and the neighbors.
Sometime later, I can’t say when, I heard the sound of an engine buzzing in the back yard. I stood at the marquesina and looked on as dad slowly mowed the grass, cutting it down to a more civil size. Why was he doing this? Tarzan hadn’t come yet! Then again, maybe Tarzan was like Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Mouse, coming and going without being seen. Or maybe he had decided to film somewhere else this time. I never asked anyone about that, thinking that if I didn’t, maybe he’d still show up.
Months passed. Every time the grass grew more than six inches I would get excited: maybe this time he would come, or if he’d come last time, maybe I could see him. Or maybe I’d find a lion in the back yard. Or maybe… maybe…
Justifying to myself why he hadn’t come yet was easy. After all, it wasn’t like the back yard was big enough to swing in, and there really weren’t any trees, other than our neighbor’s lemon tree, which branches that grew over the fence to our yard. Maybe dad and mom decided he couldn’t make the movie in our back yard and forgot to tell me. But the hope lived, and lived, and lived, until one day it left.
I waked to the back yard, barefoot and in my underwear, with woolly hair looking a bit like a jungle boy. The grass was about as tall as my ankles. I looked around yard, at the bushes then at the sides of the house, even the where all the recao grew. He wasn’t there. He wouldn’t be there. No Tarzan, no movie. He wouldn’t come. He didn’t come. Tarzan never showed up.
Years later–only a couple of years ago, in fact–I finally asked mom about what she said that day. She looked at me with as if she’d heard something very strange, then told me she didn’t remember saying anything along those lines.
For years I had wondered whether maybe she used the phrase regularly for things being so wild that Tarzan himself would be involved. (Having four small kids running about, this couldn’t be discounted.) Turns out this she didn’t; this was an off-hand remark, something she no longer remembered, and likely didn’t remember just a few hours after first saying it then. I obviously did.