This was the first lawn-mowing weekend of the year.
I dread the start of lawn mowing season – my neighbor begins to mow in early April. This year, Mother Nature forces him to snow blow his driveway the following morning. We put it off for longer, mid-May at the earliest, waiting for the lawn to recover from the pounds of snow and salt after a rough winter.
There are only a few families on the block who still mow their own lawns. The boy across the street has been whipping around his front yard on their ride-on mower since he was eleven. His mom likes knowing that he’ll have a good time while getting the chore done, though she worries what kind of driver he’ll turn into. The man next door is meticulous, often mowing twice before we have once. He likes his lawn mowed in vertical stripes, perpendicular to the street. With no fence dividing our front yards, he is generous in how far over he mows, saving me a few laps.
One summer he and his wife go away for a couple of weeks on vacation and hire my brother to do the lawn for them and water the flowers. Apparently their lot goes a bit further back than ours does, and doesn’t transition into woods in a similar way, leaving a whole lot more lawn than my brother expects. He becomes overwhelmed with the job and gives up about 2/3 of the way through, leaving my dad to finish two lawns in one weekend.
The lawn seems like such a suburban ideal, a key element in keeping up with the Joneses. I am not fighting a proper war against the weeds or doing nearly a good enough job picking up the sticks and nuts that the squirrels are pelting down from the hickory trees. Most of the neighbors have hired lawn care companies to worry about this for them, aggressively fertilizing and to keep the grass lush and monochromatic. You’re allowed to water your lawn every other day according to a town system that’s supposed to prevent drought, but our sprinklers are disconnected anyway. My sister gets upset when she sees sprinkler’s on in the middle of the day. Last week I spent an afternoon dispersing lyme and seed with a push-spreader, though I’m not really sure why. There’s empty chip bags and tiny vodka bottles in everyone’s yard no matter what you do.
The lawn care companies don’t park their trucks very well, blocking more than half the road despite the empty drive ways. The roar of the leafblowers and ride-on mowers starts much too early in the morning, before even the high schoolers get on the bus. The dad of a middle school friend buys a trailer to get in on the growing market and sometimes we see him and his younger daughter working around the neighborhood. Other companies drop their crew off, picking them up in a few hours when the job is completed, though sometimes I wonder if crewmen get left behind.
I don’t mind it once I’m actually mowing, but the chore looms large throughout the week, taunting me every time I pull out of the driveway, mocking me as my neighbor mows twice before I’ve done it once. I water the lettuce and basil growing in a pot by the front door and pretend it counts as the same chore. When my dad starts nudging my brother to do it after school, I bite the bullet and find the earmuffs and some close toed shoes (my dad has always been big on safety). I try to clear the the bigger branches and check for stones and litter. Check the gas tank, pull the starter rope twice since it’s a little finicky, and off we mow.