On the other side.
Cutting the lawn was never one of my favorite chores to do as a kid. Maybe because I loved running through the tall grass in my bare feet especially in the summer with the surprise of dew topped blades in the early morning.
I remember fussing when my mom who would sometimes ask me to stop reading my Judy Blume book or give up a baseball game with the neighborhood kids to walk the one short block up from our house to help cut my grandmother’s grass with her. It had become a job that was too much for my grandmother to take on by herself, so mom would run the mower and grams and I would rake, sweep and dance around dodging the giant bumble bees that loved her yard which was consumed by a rainbow of different colored flowers, plants and bushes. I thought of those times tonight as I was cutting my mom’s grass, it’s funny how things just appear and make themselves visible to you even though you have stood in that same spot at least a thousand times and it never occurs to you, you never see it … the magnitude of this thing that turns out to be your life.
I stood there with the mower running, the vibrations shaking loose all the cracked bits of memories and I was suddenly very aware of the ground under my feet. It would be close to the very same spot my Dad would sit when he listened to the ballgame, our dog Heidi laying beside him, his feet had touched those spots, his mark still imprinted in the dirt from 30 years ago. I let go of the handle and the mower died down with a miserable sounding glunk, glunk, glunk until it went silent. I bent down and touched the grass, and pulled a giant clump out then began digging and clawing at the black gritty earth. I sat with my legs crossed holding two handfuls of dirt, and thought of life already lived throughout my years. I remember my neighbor Tracey’s cousin throwing up in our swimming pool after woofing down a can of spaghetti O’s and jumping immediately in the pool after my Dad told her to wait awhile, she didn’t listen and we squealed and squawked flinging ourselves off the sides avoiding the floating circles taking over the waters. My Dad drained the pool, sanitized it and refilled it a few days later, but no one went in the water after they ate for at least 30 minuets! Birthday parties, starry nights, snowball fights and one panicky winter we thought we lost our dog in the blizzard of 1978 when she went out to potty, Dad fetched her from the very back of our yard and held her in a soft blanket over the warm heat of the floor register in the dinning room until she was warm again.
Little Bit, Heidi, Sabo, Reese Cup, Midnight, Cali, Bufford, Bufford II, and Azul are all buried in the backyard, some by me when Dad got too frail to dig the holes but mostly he would take great care in preparing their final resting spots. He taught me how to whittle in that backyard, how to play harmonica, and the correct way to throw a curve ball, but he never let me throw like that for more than 3 pitches “It’ll mess up your arm, kid”, he would say. My friends and I would play hide and seek starting off in my backyard as “base” when we scurried through the small neighborhood and adjoining alleys finding the best nooks and crannies to squeeze into for the perfect hiding spot. On occasion I would find myself standing in the backyard waiting with baited breath if I saw our neighbor Kenny who lived down the street from us, much older and very cool as he had a motorcycle and every once in a while he would motion for me to come down. I could not move my chubby body fast enough racing down the street to climb on the back of his bike as he plopped a helmet on me that came down past my earlobes, I could not hold on tight enough as we raced past the neighborhood kids all lined up in a row with envy.
A lifetime feels like it has already been lived within the blades of this backyard. The yard that I now mow for my mother because she is no longer able to do it alone. I mow and she sweeps and we are both grateful there are no bumblebees to dance around. I have never enjoyed cutting grass more than I do these days.