Lessons from the Lawn Mower

IMG_2301

Fifteen years ago, one of the things I swore I’d never do in a marriage is use a lawn mower. In sickness and in health and in long, grassy lawns that will never get the attention they deserve — from me. I’d tackle the gardens and keep those pesky weeds from cropping up, but the grass was not, in my mind, going to be my turf.

And turf, it ain’t. Because that shizz can grow.

Lo and behold, as it turns out, if you find yourself living without a partner and the grass is growing up around your ankles and you’re pretty sure the ticks are going to come join you for dinner on the patio, the lawn needs to be trimmed. For a good chunk of the summer, I have a college kid who comes weekly, only leaving occasional grassy mohawk stripes here and there. I’m pretty sure he won’t be setting out for a career in Golf Course Management but until mid-August when he leaves for college, he gets the job done.

IMG_1773

During the grass growing —  let’s call it — shoulder season, it’s all me. Just a few pumps to prime it and a quick seventeen pulls on that thingymabob and we are off, the old biddy and me. It’s still kind of a new relationship. Blowing grass all over the state and into gardens throughout the land. It’s like synchronicity if you consider huffing, puffing, sweating, cursing and kicking machinery to be a match made in heaven.

A few weeks ago, as I started her up, I thought to myself, what a beautiful day. So grateful to be outside in the sun. And then I accidentally mowed over a plant. What can I say, turning on a dime is not in its vernacular. Wrangling this old lawn mower is not unlike pushing a mighty dog sled loaded with bricks — but with no dogs. For two hours. It’s a sweaty, laborious task that has nobody jumping up and down to say, Oooh, me me me! I’ll do it!

But I rallied, saying to myself: This is a first world problem, get over yourself.

You are WOMAN. {Mowing around the lavender bush – whoops, nicked my Liberty apple tree.}

You’re from hardy stock. {Mowing the perimeter of my vegetable garden.}

You are, like, Laura Ingalls Wilder. {Mowing below the grape vines.}

Get it DONE.

So, I did. And I checked it off the week’s To Do list.

The next week, the mower broke down. It needed a part, so I borrowed a neighbor’s.

How do you start it? I asked her.

Oh, you just push that button, she answered. I just looked at her. Say what?

Wow.

So I pushed the button and got her started up. Began mowing and realized right away that this thing was SELF PROPELLED. I could have traveled a hundred miles to Boston, mowing the whole way, it was so smooth.

You’ve GOT to be kidding me, I thought. I pretty much push an old car around my yard, hoping it will manicure those grassy tendrils around my garden, and there are lawn mowers out there that don’t suck? That don’t drop screws and washers every ten minutes? That actually catch the clippings?

On what planet had I been living?

My dear Dad, I should mention, generously gave me a check for my birthday that was meant to buy me a new mower. I’ve sat on it all summer and even now that I know mowing doesn’t HAVE to be a solo CrossFit workout, in a weird way, I kind of like it. In fact, I kind of missed my mower. What the whaaa? I know. I don’t love the frequency in which the grass needs to be cut. And I don’t love being the only person in my house capable of mowing said grass. But I do know that I’m strong. That when times get tough, I can make things happen. Not just peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and back tickles or homework and dance parties. I can get shit DONE.

c572d6a50b7fa8ac1c0c69a6b7880483

It’s a good reminder.

Doing things that are hard — that are less than savory or scary, even — is good for the spirit. [Mowing, I realize, is not scary.] And doing so reaches into your solar plexus, that area below your ribs and behind your stomach, into your power center. Tapping into this is what stimulates our hearts and our brains and our quest for a life well lived. Doing the hard stuff is what motivates us to do better. To be better.

I’m pretty sure life isn’t going to get better by chance. I think it takes optimism and, often, change.

So, I got the part. Fixed the old gal, who has a few good years left in her. And I vow to myself: until death do I part, I’ll be taking on the hard stuff in search of a better tomorrow.

 

10

An open birthday letter to my eldest daughter.

Dear Blondie,

You’re officially 10. Double digits. A tween. How in the world did this happen? And when I say how in the world, what I really mean is HOW IN THE HELL but that’s not okay for you to say right now because you’re 10.

IMG_3647

But how in the in the hell of a world did this HAPPEN? You were just born. I was just holding you in my arms and you were falling asleep while I sang the lyrics to Blackbird. And why did I always sing that song to you, my newborn infant turned toddler turned girl child? Sunken eyes and broken wings, not so warm and fuzzy. A bit morbid for a baby. So nice to meet you, tiny human, now go to sleep while I sing to you about a dead bird. Of course, I get it, I know symbolism when I see it. But I find it compelling that I would sing to you about the Phoenix rising and you would lie there, having nursed, looking like a wee and happy drunken sailor in my arms. A perfect bundle with peach fuzzy hair and velvety pink skin. That little O you would make with those baby bird lips. Those teeny tiny fingernails, and how that one time I clipped your pinky because can it really be possible that fingernails come that small? It was, and you howled in pain and so then I cried, and then you drank from my breast and all was right with the world. Everything was always all right after those moments of closeness.

I had the power to make it better.

I won’t lie, becoming your mother was one of the most soul-satisfying jobs I could ever hope to have. And I haven’t looked back, not even for a fraction of a second. My Dad, your Grandpop, always used to say that in college I majored in People. I think that’s about right. I dig community, I’m like an archaeologist of the spirit. With perhaps a minor in Connection.

And so, connect we did. From the day you were born, you were keen and enthusiastic about life. Always up for an adventure. Always gratified in nature. Chock full of giggles and guffaws, you laughed at any and every thing. Comedy was your bag. You have always adored animals and used them as pillows whenever the opportunity allows. You have always had a kind heart, sensitive to others who are hurting, aware when friends are feeling left out. And dogmatic from the start, you were my little CEO — right out of the gate. No one was going to push you around. Boys that were bigger than you and being unjust? Knuckle sandwich on a plate — that, my dear, is what you’ve always served.

IMG_4157

Some of my favorite moments with you are the dance parties in the kitchen, where we Cha Cha and breakdance and moonwalk, channeling Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise in his Risky Business or even couch jumping days. The history of dance so often takes a tour of our living room. I also love having you come into my bedroom, as you do each morning, and Velcro-ing your long body next to mine. Still my baby girl but not unlike a big foal, my lanky tween, all arms and legs.

You are a love. And also, some days a bit of a crab. But unfortunately I’m your mom, not your friend. Saying that is a little tough for even me to swallow, but it’s true. I’m doing my best to guide you to the edge of the nest. I’ll keep your wings appropriately clipped for now, but when you’re ready…and I think we’ll both know when that day comes…I’ll be here to watch you go, to support you and love you and to stoke the home fires for those days when you return.

Meeting you was the best day of my life. Yet knowing and loving you has meant so much more.

IMG_3084

And that Phoenix? That’s not you, my sweet girl. You’re the baby bird and there’s a vast expanse of blue sky out there waiting for you. That bird, rising from the ashes, will be me. Because when you and your sister are grown and have gone out into the world, I know myself. I know my heart. That space that you both so lovingly fill will be broken wide open, and I will have to light my own way. Finding a path of not only having just been your mom, but a path that leads to a place of so much more, having known and loved you as my own. And just as I have tremendous faith in you, so do I in me.

Happy birthday, baby. Now would someone please spin for us a little PYT.

xoxoxo,

M.