Today I was edging the backyard with my weed whacker, thinking about how I needed to sharpen the lawnmower’s blade since the grass looked ragged. Then I started thinking about why I even knew such useless information about a lawn, which I like to think of as “ground cover that looks better than concrete.” After the edging and blade sharpening, I realized I’d spent over an hour of The Toddler’s nap on yard work and I hadn’t even started mowing the lawn yet. Then I remembered writing this piece for Dad’s Round Table, which I think is perfect for Two Timing Tuesday.
Enjoy this little glimpse into the chores I hate most, especially in the summer.
I hate yard work. Mowing grass, edging, sweeping up the debris, I hate it all. I’d say I hate it with the fiery intensity of a thousand suns, but I dread how tall my grass would grow with the light of a thousand suns on it. Good luck mowing that less than twice a day.
I suppose I got spoiled growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area where most of the landscape has been left as God intended it: paved. The house I grew up in has a landscaped front yard with a small plot of grass in it, which as a ten year-old, only took me about ten minutes to mow with a reel mower. Even back then, I dreamed of getting a riding mower and knocking out the lawn in twenty seconds tops. I had important things to do, like bike to 7-Eleven for slurpees or try to watch scrambled pornography from the cable box in my (much) older brother’s room.
I suppose my real hatred of yard work began when my wife and I moved to Atlanta. Since the USDA’s official designation of Atlanta’s climate should be Semi-Tropical Hot House, the lawns in front and back of our town-house seemed to grow about three inches a night. While there wasn’t a lot of work to do in our narrow, town-house yard, it had to be done regularly. Owning an interior unit meant walking the lawnmower through two other backyards to get it around to the front of our house. Which meant fighting more than just crabgrass while working in the yard.
One owner had an enormous mastiff that she let range free between her house and backyard. Luckily it preferred to sleep upstairs in her town-house, so if I opened the gate, I had a good ten seconds to sprint through the yard pushing a lawnmower in front of me before Killer ran into the yard. The dog was big enough that even from outside you could hear him lumber across the second floor and thump down the stairs; this gave me plenty of warning about when exactly I should abandon the lawnmower and save myself. Eventually, I would just push the mower through the house into the front yard just so I wouldn’t catch rabies.
I thought all that canine related stress was why I hated yard work, so I didn’t think through the landscaping implications when we upgraded from our town-home to a single-family house on a half–acre lot outside Atlanta. After only one July day of huffing smog as I pushed our gas mower around our enormous lawn for 90 solid minutes, I hated yard work once again. We still had the three inches growth at night, but now the lawn was large enough to harbor red ants and digger wasps; I discovered the latter only after I accidentally ran the lawnmower over their nest. I felt a sting and thought I’d stepped in an unseen red ant mound, but looked down to find my legs polka-dotted with wasps. I escaped with eighteen stings.
I didn’t give up doing my own yard work, even when I realized most of my stories about yard work in Atlanta involved some combination of sunburn, smoke inhalation, heat stroke, or the sentence, “I thought I’d stepped into a red ant mound only to discover some other horrible insect trying to turn me into a human kabob.”
Now that I live in Maryland, things are a little better. There are less stinging insects to battle, but it is still warm and humid enough that the yard needs to be tended to at least once week lest it becomes the botanical version of Howard Hughes at the end of his life.
But I still do it each week because that’s one major definition of adulthood: doing the things you have to do because they have to get done. My doing yard work serves as an example to my three children that you have to do things you don’t want to do in life. Whether mowing the lawn or scrubbing a toilet, these tasks are sometimes unpleasant and sometimes annoying, but you have to do them anyway. Then you have to do it over and over again. Forever. Or at least until your kids are old enough to do it for you instead, whichever comes first.
What chores make you feel most like an adult?