Sun plus rain, rain and more rain. Which means it’s time to mow the lawn!
I’m one of those sick people who likes to cut the grass. I always have. As a kid, once I took over the job from my brother, I made it my own. It was serious business. The care of the lawn was in my hands. It was my chance to have some influence in the house. To make a difference. To show that, I, the youngest of the family, was responsible. I could not only be trusted with this task, but I’d be the best at it. (Or maybe I was just a lonely kid with nothing better to do and this was something to focus my energy on.)
I remember it well. I was in fifth grade and my dad brought home the new lawn mower. It was an Ariens mulcher/bagger mower with a key start, was rear-wheel self-propelled, had a high-lift blade to maximize bagging efficiency, and had adjustable speeds. This thing was smooth. My dad had his car to baby, my brother would soon have his own truck to pamper and I had the lawn mower. It was mine. I cleaned it, polished it’s I even waxed it! You should have seen that thing on a sunny day. Bang! You’d need sunglasses to ease the glare on your eyes.
I loved cutting the grass so much, I declared it. “I love cutting the grass!” My parents made me put it in writing and sign my name to use against me for when I protested. But you know what, they never needed to.
You’re probably thinking I talk a big game, but did I have the skills to back it up? You bet I did.
During the summer of 1990, I developed a cutting technique that I still use to this day. I was all about the lines. I saw on TV that you should alter your cutting pattern so you didn’t get ruts in the lawn. It was recommended to switch your cutting pattern every two weeks. This made sense to me. Up until that point I usually did the “box” method, or just stripes in the most convenient way. Whatever involved turning around less often. But I didn’t want ruts! Ruts sounded bad! So I switched to vertical stripes, horizontal stripes and then diagonal stripes. I was becoming a pro.
Before I did the stripes, I needed to border the whole lawn with two passes. This gave me ample room to turn around without leaving any uncut spots. It was key to border first, because bordering after you cut everything left a big, intense border. Which I did not like. Not only did I not like seeing an intense border around the yard, I also wanted all my lines to line up from the front yard to the backyard. I wanted a pilot flying overhead to look down and say, “Dang, look at those lines! The front yard matches the backyard!” You bet they did.
Eventually, it became an artistic outlet for me. The mower was my brush and the backyard was my canvas. I started cutting shapes in the lawn. I would cut the whole lawn perfectly and then leave a nice crisp triangle uncut. I’d let it grow for a few weeks and then do something different. Then I started doing squiggles instead of lines, among some of other crazy things. Like I said, I think I was a lonely kid.
Cutting the grass wasn’t just a half-hour chore. It took a while. It was my time. I’d get my Sony Walkman cassette player (That’s right! Cassette player!) and my headphones, load up some Digital Underground, Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer and get lost in the moment. When I got into middle school, it was Van Halen, Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N’Roses. I had to have my tapes, or cutting the grass just wasn’t the same. I would just pass back and forth and jam out to the tunes. I’m not sure what thoughts I had in my fifth-grade brain to get lost in, but apparently I had a lot going on up there. Diagonals? Or Squiggles?
I didn’t just cut my parent’s lawn either. I had a few throughout the neighborhood I’d cut for some cash. I wasn’t as particular with their lawns as my own, but it was close. I had saved up enough money over three summers to buy my Kenwood stereo system, complete with an amplifier, CD player, cassette deck and an equalizer. That thing lasted me all through high school, college and the first few years at my house. I never felt prouder than when I bought that stereo. I knew how hard I had worked for that. And I knew how many people had amazingly cut grass because of me. Just sayin’.
But now, I have a small yard. I can cut my lawn in about eight minutes. Twelve if I’m bagging. It doesn’t mean I like doing it any less. I actually started cutting my neighbor’s so I’d have more to cut. And I cut my grandma’s when I can. But with having a kid now, it seems harder to get away to make the eight-minute cut. Having a crappy hand-me-down mower doesn’t help much either. Not only did I end the last cut of the season with breaking two lawn mowers, but I also began this season with breaking another two lawn mowers. Ugh. Cutting the grass had lost its magic.
UNTIL! I bought a new mower! My first purchased lawn mower. It’s a Toro, No. 9 on the Consumer Reports’ list. It’s in the Top 10 without Top 10 prices. I wanted something nice, but I didn’t need to show off. This fit the bill. It’s no Ariens mower I had as a kid, but it gets the job done. And it brings the magic back!
Now, cutting the grass is time I can (re)claim my masculinity. I can get lost in my thoughts as the sweat drips in my eyes as I pace the yard. There’s no diapers, no tricking a kid into eating vegetables or trying to determine what “mucca” means (that’s Ellie’s word of the moment). It’s just me, my machine and the green grass. Sure, some Lionel Ritchie or Lady Gaga might pop up in my playlist as I cut, but it’s still my time.