Last week I purchased a new lawnmower at my son’s behest. The lithium battery-powered mower I had been using finally crapped out for good. I should have returned it the day I bought it because it never was worth a damn. It had some safety feature that killed the engine if you went over the slightest bump in the lawn. I was tempted to get another electric, especially since it would be my 12-year-old son using it. But my better instincts prevailed and I went back to a gasoline motor with a pull start. You can’t beat that, even if it’s only assembled in America.
I got the machine put together, poured in some oil and added some premium gasoline. Two yanks and the Briggs & Stratton engine was purring. I felt like I had gotten a pretty good price on the mower, but shit the gas was expensive. My son insisted on mowing the yard the minute he got home from his mountain bike class. He has always been into mowers. As a toddler, he had a toy John Deere that I purchased from a garage sale. Those were the good old days when I was always buying him toys and clothes at garage sales. His brother always got his hand-me-downs so I didn’t bother. Anyway, Miles used to push that green and yellow toy round the dining room table every night before bed. Wearing nothing but a diaper, he’d do laps while making a sputtering noise with his mouth. My wife and I would laugh and laugh. Like I said, those were the good old days.
I listened to him mow the real thing from inside the house. It’s a sound of summer, those lawnmowers. You can smell that freshly clipped grass drifting in through the windows, a green smell accompanied by chirping birds. The warmer weather takes it sweet time getting here, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing.
As the days passed I noticed something funny. No one else seemed to be mowing their lawns. Typically, if my neighbor mows his lawn, then I mow mine and vice versa. An unkempt lawn looks awful next to a perfectly groomed one. It’s always a kick in the ass when the other guy mows his first. But not this year.
I watched the multiplying dandelions sprout long stalks and form downy balls. When I first bought my home I was more of a perfectionist. I’d obsessively pluck every single dandelion out of the yard. They’re pesky plants, but they don’t get out of hand if you stay on top of them. I was never one to spray them with herbicide like some people.
“Nobody’s mowing their lawns,” I said to my wife. I’ll admit it rankled me.
“No mow May,” she said.
“No mow May,” I parroted sarcastically. I had heard something about it. I’m not even sure where.
“You’re supposed to hold off mowing till June.”
“Yeah, I get it. Good for the bees.”
She shrugged. I always seemed to blame her for such things.
“I don’t care,” I said. “I’m glad he mowed.”
“It’s fine with me. There’s plenty of weeds growing in other people’s yards.”
I left the room and came back. “I think it’s just another way to be lazy.”
She smiled. “I think your right.”
Well, it’s Memorial Day, so June will be here soon enough. I told my son that if he mows anyone else’s yard to charge them double if it’s a jungle. I’m not really annoyed by the dandelions. It’s the people that bother me. Earlier in the month, I was homebound because of Covid. I’m vaccinated and healthy. It felt like the flu. Mostly, I was extremely tired and weak. Just as I was regaining my strength, my wife came upstairs and took over the bed where I was isolating.
“I have it too,” she said. “I feel absolutely awful.”
My sick-cation was officially over. I masked up and took care of the kids. It made me really happy actually. I was getting rather lonely and bored up there. I hardly have a purpose in life without them to keep me busy. Miles ended up contracting it too and had to miss a week of school. Thankfully, he was barely sick. He occupied his time by building a ramp and launching himself over it again and again with his mountain bike. During this period of personal inactivity, I noticed something. My neighbors still haven’t left their houses. All this time, and they’re still working remotely. Staring at their computers all day, they just get fatter and fatter. They haven’t cut their hair in two years and now they won’t mow their lawns.
I will admit the pandemic often makes me feel like a Republican. Perhaps conservative is a better word. I yearn for the good old days. Without a center, the world seems to be spinning off its political axis. I’m ready to give up on the news. What can I do about it, anyway? Should my worldview be dictated by the worst thing the worst person in the country does on any particular day? The cycle of outrage could not be more useless.
I envy the innocence of the Latina children I see at the park as I shoot baskets. At play in the sunshine, they fashion dandelion garlands to wear in their lustrous, black hair. The laughing girls pluck the ripe globes and blow the seeds free to dance in the breeze. Long ago, I was like that–a little boy gathering a bouquet of yellow dandelions to present to my mother. She’d place them on the kitchen counter in a Dixie cup and I’d run back outside, joyous that I’d proven my love.
The media gets to be a kind of pollution. I’d rather listen to birdsong. The neighbors can do whatever they want with their lawns. I’ll remove every last dandelion from mine. That much, at least, I can control.