Lawns, and the care of grass in the generations of my life:
Home owners who care for their own yards may end up spending countless hours which will add up to days, weeks, months and possibly even years throughout the course of a lifetime.
My earliest recollection of observing someone spend time and effort preserving and caring for a lawn are memories of my grandmother, my father's mother. She and my grandfather had a small business, a hardware store, they started in the late 1930's. Their store was in a two story masonry building, with a huge awning out front. They lived up stairs. The building sat on four acres of land which occupied two warehouses, not to mention scores of piles of salvage strewn throughout the property. They had three children, including my father, and nine grandchildren, including me. My parents were very young when they married, so we lived with my grandparents upstairs until I was three. My grandmother worked as hard as any man in that store. One priority she always had was to keep a patch of grass with a swingset. She'd find time out of her busy day to trim, water and preserve that little patch of grass. Her and I spent a lot of time on the 'swings'. She would wear housedresses and flats, slipper like, black, ballerina shoes. She always had Chicklet gum in her pockets and would go in to the store and bring out two ice cold Big Red soda pops from the magical vending machines. She had always asked my grandfather for a proper home, a house with a proper backyard. She died of cancer at age fifty two, still a resident of the Hardware store apartment. She was able to make a seemingly unimportant patch of vegetation an oasis of fun and leisure amongst surroundings of pipe fitting, the smell of sawdust and oil and sounds of machinery hard at work. She was probably the only person in this world that loved me completely and unconditionally. I can't wait to see her again.
My mother always made a point to water the grass in our yard when I was growing up. She'd spend nearly an hour each night watering the half acre of grass our split level home sat on. As a teenager, I don't think I appreciated the dedication and discipline it took for my mother to take time out for this ritual. Our hot summers in South Texas, require that the lawns receive atleast two soakings late at night, per week, in order for the grass to live and thrive. There was a lot of time my mother spent out there, in her solitude. She literally had to fight for that home. My father wanted to remain on the side of town where the business was. My brother and I were in need of a better school district on the other side of town. I can remember long drives to the 'Northside' looking for the right house. Nothing seemed to please my father, meanwhile my brother was falling further behind without the support he needed to address his severe learning disabilities. I too was facing challenges of negative peer pressure, hanging around with a rough crowd. We were sinking fast. Finally, a Spanish style split level, on a corner lot, was up for sale. The look, the price and the neighborhood all fit the bill and even my father had to admit it would be a mistake to pass up the chance to move into that home. The yard was beautiful. The owner was maticulous about it. His sons were off to college and his wife was dying of cancer. My father finally agreed and we moved. My brother got the help in school he needed and I got a whole new perspective on life and goals. My mother never let up. She fought for us. I was proud to live in one of the nicest homes in our neighborhood which was only three blocks from the high school. I'm sure that as she spent time watering the lawn, she planted hopes and dreams and wishes for our future. She died in that house at age fifty three, on the evening of my birthday a warm September day in 1997, right before she and my father were to move in to another home, a one story with a smaller yard. My mother will always be my heroine.
Like my mother and grandmother, I don't see yard work as "men's work". We should do what we're good at and recognize that the upkeep of a home, including grocery shopping, preparing tastey healthy meals, laundry and proper care of clothing, orderliness and cleanliness is just as important as any job or profession. A home that is well maintained is a fortress from the challenges of the outside world, the place that nurtures greatness. I grew up watching my mother care for our yard and as a child it said to me, this is where we live, this is who we are.
Now, I'm fifty and I've always loved working on my yard. I've spread top soil and planted sod and flowers. This spring, in particular, I've spent more time and money than I ever have before. It is my therapy now, because I lost my son two years ago this February. He was twentyseven and my husband and I were his primary caregivers. He used to love to swing on a bench swing in our backyard with me. On particulary hot days we'd let the sprinkler hit us, drink a soda and we'd sing and talk. He was a special boy, a unique man/child who was born with two syndromes, one that affected him mentally and one that affected him physically. He had undergone countless reconstructive surgeries, including two kidney transplants and nine years of hemo-dialysis. He did graduate from high school and enjoyed life. He would tell me he was a fighter. He would tell me that one day he was going to heaven and that he would miss me. I got so used to him pulling through all of the many hospital stays, illnesses, treatments and surgeries, I felt that his delarations of travel would be VERY far off. He had so many close calls and the Lord was faithful and merciful. He granted us so many victories that I felt sure he would be with us for many years and would most likely out live me. During his lifetime, he displayed such bravery and valor. He and I were a team. I don't think the doctors much cared for having to deal with both of us, but I was his voice and knew him better than anyone else. The thing is, he was my voice too, especially when he just blurted out, in colorful language, exactly what he was thinking. He was strong, wise and caring, a tremendous judge of character and a fighter. He loved and adored the Rocky movies. Whenever I had to have him simmer down during one of his colorful language rants, he'd say, "I'm a fighter!" While I didn't want to face the fact that his life here on earth could be cut short, he never failed to remind me that there was more, much more than this life we live. "Mom? Mom? Do you have peace? Do you have faith? Do you miss Nana? I miss Nana. I'm going to heaven. I'm gonna miss you. We'll all be together. Right mom?" Nana was what he called my mom. She was his heroine too and he was the apple of her eye. And now, he is at his forewarned destination and I am here caring for the yard that one day I too will leave behind, spending hours, using the waterhose to meticulously water from one corner to the other during the hot, dry summer months, just as my mother and grandmother did. You know when the soaking is complete because the sweet smell of the earth rises up and the shrivled grass becomes plump and appears grateful that someone thought to take the time to keep it alive. I relish the time I spend alone in the yard, remembering my loved ones and all the while keep in mind how fleeting life really is and realize more and more with each passing year that, our dreams are simply wishes for the day at hand.
"Human life is like grass; we grow like a flower in the field. After the wind blows, the flower is gone, and there is no sign of where it was. But the Lord's love for those who respect him continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to their grandchildren and to those who keep his agreement and who remember to obey his orders. " Psalm 103 15-18
The picture at the top is Robby's backyard tribute, a statue of a boy holding a jar of fireflies which I lovingly placed in Robby's first radio flyer wagon, surrounded by daisies and marigolds next to his favorite swing.