I mowed the lawn yesterday.
That’s not exactly a “stop the presses!” news flash in most households, but it sort of is in ours because this was the first time all spring and summer that I mowed the lawn. Lest you think we were engaged in a Prairie Preservation Project on our property until now, I should say that our lawn has been mowed all summer long- just not by me. The reason is that last fall, our mower came down with a case of Fuel Line Tuberculosis and refused to start – and instead of bringing it in right away to get fixed, we stashed it in the garage and promised ourselves that we would bring it in to Central Saw in plenty of time to get it repaired for spring. You can probably guess where this story is going. By the time we remembered that our mower needed servicing, our lawn already looked like the set for “Tarzan and the Tiger Trappers” but the estimated service time at Central Saw was 70 days. (I guess one or two other people needed their lawn mowers fixed.)
So we called up a lawn care firm. . . I suspect that “Ritz Carlton Lawn Care” is their name. . . and began paying somebody $45 to mow our lawn once a week. To put that in my own lingo, that’s a lot of opera videos. What softened the blow is that the young man who did the actual mowing most of the time was a former student of Kathy’s and a very nice guy . . . and moreover, he was a Rembrandt with a mower and trimmer. When we would come home, we would find our lawn mowed ( all the way to the property line, including the sloping hillside into the ravine adjacent to our house, which is very tricky to do ) -immaculately trimmed- and even the clippings blown off of the driveway. I mean the guy was like an Eagle Scout going for his last merit badge. Every single time.
I think both Kathy and I got very attached to this state of affairs. I liked that somebody else was doing the mowing and she liked that it was being done so splendidly. (When I mow, it looks much rougher. . . as though the mower had been pushed by a severely near- sighted penguin on crutches.) But eventually the dreaded phone call came from Central Saw, saying that our mower was repaired and ready to be picked up, and we realized that this little whiff of Life on Martha’s Vineyard had to come to an end. (By the way, we didn’t exactly break any speed records to retrieve the mower. It was tempting to just leave things as they were, except for all that money we were burning through, week after week, as though our last name were Rockefeller. But believe me, it’s not.)
I really don’t hate mowing the lawn – but it’s way down my list of favorite summertime activities. What I dislike the most about it is that you can’t really do anything else while you do it – and for an obsessive multi-tasker like me that is so irritating. At the beginning of three or four successive summers, I would buy myself a new CD Walkman, hoping that my latest purchase would finally be the device that would work while I mowed. (It had to be something I could easily carry and yet have a potent enough sound that I could hear it over the roar of the mower. But I never did find a walkman that would do the trick, and invariably it would be all but impossible for me to hear Joan Sutherland above the roar of the mower. Imagine my frustration! ) Then I got an iPod, which was plenty loud, but a mishap at Disneyland ruined the battery and that was the end of that. So as of now I’m just thinking deep thoughts as I mow. . . and hoping that maybe I’ll get a song or two composed, although my Mower Muse has not been too impressive thus far.
One thing that is frustrating is that the Ritz Carlton Mower would come with this fancy double-width mower, and he would do the mowing, trimming, and blowing in just under thirty minutes. Needless to say it takes me considerably longer than half an hour to get things mowed (I don’t even think about trimming- even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to do it) and every minute past the thirty-minute mark is torture. I go progressively faster, which means that the mowing gets progressively sloppier. . . to the point where we would probably be better off if we just had a herd of hungry goats doing the job instead of me.
One more thought about mowing the lawn. On Monday, Kathy and I drove down to Downer’s Grove to visit our friends Trevor and Megan and to see the lovely house which they are renting there. Trevor mentioned at one point that their mower had recently broken down and he was waiting to get a loaner from his dad so he could finally get their lawn mowed – and he talked about how frustrating he was to have the grass be so long. And as he talked about that, all I could think about was how for someone like me, a broken lawn mower is like an Answered Prayer – because it either means putting off the mowing or passing it off to someone other than me. What could be sweeter than that? And then I thought about people like Kathy’s dad who live someplace where there is no lawn for them to mow. . . and who actually miss doing it. Terribly. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but all I know is that when God was handing out the Lawn Care gene, I must have been in another line, getting the gene for transposing music or eating fast food or memorizing Star Trek dialogue instead.
pictured above: Bobbi and Ellie looking mighty happy in our backyard. By the way, I think our lawn firm absolutely earned their $45; there’s not the slightest doubt about that. But with a new garage door, new patio door, and Kathy’s graduate courses bearing down on our wallet like three heat-seeking missiles, this was a luxury we couldn’t justify. But it sure was nice while it lasted.