Jo Knowles, at the website that she and Kate Messner author, inspired me to unlock childhood memories by writing about them. I made a list of words that came to mind when thinking about the house in which I grew up. I specifically focused on the kitchen and then the yard. What happened was that a floodgate of images began to emerge. I hope to share these memories on my blog but for today, I will start in the yard.
Seeing my parents work hard to create a happy home and having neighbors who cared about us while growing up in the seventies and eighties made our three bedroom ranch house on a corner lot a special one. All of the neighbors knew that my dad loved to mow his yard. I knew it too.
Before we moved from a smaller house on another corner in the same town right before I turned six, I would ride with my dad on his riding lawn mower as he’d patiently drive that mower up and down the front and side yard. As a toddler, I’d even fall asleep while feeling the calm vibrations of the mower. Being an only child, I remember my dad holding me for as long as he could before stopping the mower and taking me to the house or to my mother who was waiting to take me back inside.
I always loved the two yards in which I had the privilege of growing up. Once we moved to the house across town, my dad got a new red Honda mower that was self propelled. Even though we no longer had a riding mower, he loved that the “push” mower actually drove itself as he guided it around the yard. He spent hours using it while I did little more than smell the freshly cut grass even from inside the house where I loved to spend time reading or playing piano. Other times I’d venture out the door and observe him.
For as long as I remembered, when he entered the house after work one night a week, he’d change into yard clothes and get to work. Many times, he’d repeat the mowing on Saturdays. He would fill up the mower tank of his lawnmower with the red plastic gas can. The sun hit the freshly washed red metal mower making it a piece of moving art. He never put it away without washing it and allowing it to dry after he mowed our yard. His self propelled Honda lawnmower would even mulch the grass as he mowed it. He always used the feature that allowed him to bag the grass because the mulching feature did not provide a level of lawn care that he wanted. The messy grass that would fall out of the mower when the mulching feature was on the mower just seemed too messy. My dad wanted to see a clean cut yard when he finished so he bagged grass every few trips around our yard. Either the city would pick up the grass bags once a week or people driving by would pick up the bags to probably spread on their gardens and build their natural, rich soil.
Daddy’s meticulous lawn mowing skills were far beyond any that I had, but I would watch him. I might be sitting on the deck reading a book, but I observed. I listened too. He always wanted to tell me details of how to empty the grass into the plastic bags and how to start the mower properly. Sometimes, I’d help insert the bag back into the mower. I’d observe him walking in rows to have perfectly straight lines in the yard. One week, he’d mow one direction. Then, then next week, he’d start in the opposite direction. He knew how to make the grass grow with seeding and fertilizing it just right and how to cut it.
He was so proud of his yard. It became his hobby. I knew that our yard looked great and he did too. When the leaves of neighbors would fall and blow into our yard, he would immediately pick them up. To this day, he knows how many times he mowed last year. I just heard my dad say recently that he mowed 83 times in 2014. As a 78 year old man, I am amazed by his willingness to still work hard which has been his pattern throughout his life. Due to his back causing him to bend over a bit, it takes him longer than it used to, but he spends an entire day mowing the yard each week. Even in the winter, when the yard doesn’t need mowing, he’ll blow debris off of the driveway with his blower, power wash the grease from the driveway from the cars, wash windows or collect sticks on the ground that have fallen from trees. He has even blown snow from the driveway in the dead of winter.
Yard work defines my dad. He values it and enjoys it. I know that in April, he and my mom will insert tomato plants, cucumbers and peppers into their garden in the yard. They will keep their apple trees pruned and ready for the apples that will produce through the summer and fall. When I visit them this coming week, I look forward to driving up, seeing the perfect edging up and down the driveway and around the perimeter of their lot. Everyone needs to have something about which they are passionate. Yard work is his passion. He loves to tell me all about what he has done lately in the yard so I listen. I love that he has a passion.
I love that my dad’s passion has been to improve and maintain a shared vision with my mother concerning their home and yard. What makes you excited to be alive? Is it yard work? Food preparation? Service? Or, could the responsibilities of everyday life make us miss that we have the opportunity to grab hold of a passion? You will know your passion by how much time you spend doing it and how much you talk about it. Choose wisely.
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