It could have marked a low point in life for me. Hearing the words was startling for someone like me, proud of my working-class background, possessing a do-it-yourself streak that causes twangs of guilt when someone else changes my trucks dirty oil:
Daddy, the daughter on the phone said, you may want to know: Someone is cutting our grass.
Someone. Someone other than me. Some-one. Else. Was cutting. My grass.
Schedules are tough and time is conflicted and busy. But just as the Bible says the lilies of the field blissfully ignore any need for toil, the grass continues to happily grow, along with the weeds that shrug off the too-late and hastily applied chemicals that are supposed to choke them and make them disappear.
Just as busy but twice as thoughtful, my wife, mother of my children, asked her own mother for the telephone number of a crew of lawnmower jockeys who had cut her grass. And then she called them, summoning them to our blissful but overgrown little corner of Columbia County suburbia.
And they cut. My. Grass.
Looking at some very old family photos recently, I noticed the modest Southern homes were decorated with nothing more than a few shrubs or trees in the yard. There was no grass at all, just dirt swept clean with a sagebrush broom. Indeed, one of the photos depicted a home surrounded by plowed earth just a few feet from the front porch. Why waste good farmland on grass, unless it was there for cows to eat?
Certainly, Im no world traveler, except through the glow of the Discovery channel or the Internet. But I have been told that no other countries are so wedded to growing expanses of grass in front of their homes.
Its an American phenomena, then, that we grow a plant designed to be repeatedly cut. We spend enormous amounts of time and energy planting and grooming it, keeping it free of bugs and weeds and dead spots. Incredibly, in a time of drought and water restrictions, automatic sprinklers pour millions of gallons on the ground to keep the lawns lush - speeding its growth and with it the need to trim the blades of grass. Again. And again.
With assistance from recent rains, my lawn was due for a trimming. Unlike those lilies of the field, though, I toil at everything but lawn care these days, and so the grass steadily grew, its unruliness mocking my late-arriving steps in the evening.
Until my wife asked her mom for a number, and called a lawn service, and hired someone to cut my grass.
Somewhere, the muses of writing are writhing in agony over the idea of lawn-mowing as a metaphor for the service of mothers. But by gosh, its a good one. Who else steps in when things get too deep? Who else nurtures and feeds and waters things that grow, and then cuts them down to size when they get unruly?
Maybe thats why when I visit my mom on Mothers Day, or any other time, I take along scissors to trim the grass around her grave marker. For somebody who brought me into the world, watched me grow and tidied me up when I got messy - and sometimes stepped in when things got too deep - its the least I can do.
As for my dear wife - a dear woman who had the thoughtfulness to ask her own mother for a phone number, so somebody who makes a living cutting the lawns of the lazy and the busy could tidy up my yard: Thanking her, and the mom who brought her into the world and watched her grow, is the very least I can do.
Happy Mothers Day, to everyone. Including the folks who mow lawns, literally and figuratively.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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