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My husband and I clamp on our ear muffs, then gloves and safety glasses. We look like we’re headed to work on the tarmac at the local airport, but we’re not. We give each other the thumbs up, then I head off on the riding mower while he picks up the weed-wacker. We’re doing something that we’ve done for the last four summers – cutting the grass at my parent’s home.
As I circle the familiar yard atop the mower, something I never would have been allowed to do when I was growing up there, because everyone knows that riding a mower is much too dangerous for a GIRL, I have plenty of time to think. I slice through the tall grass making a path back to our old woods, where my sister and I spent countless hours tromping through the mud, and were sure we had at least once seen a bear. (We hadn’t) . I circle the side yard where our greenhouse once stood, reminded of the hours that I toiled there as a girl, tamping seedlings into flats, surrounded by the warm, earthy smell of dirt, and my sister singing along to WLS top 40 radio. I head to the back yard where our barn once was, where we slipped our hands under warm chickens to pull out a fresh egg, and where Cookie the cow lived, until she mysteriously disappeared one day, and we suddenly started eating pot roast a lot. Then, to the other side of the house, where sheets once flapped on a clothesline every Monday, and bluebirds nested in homemade boxes outside our windows, and where the TV antenna stood, waiting for someone to come out and give it a turn, so maybe for once we could watch “The Patty Duke Show” or “American Bandstand” (We couldn’t.) Finally, back to the front, where we’d find fat Blue Racers stretched out to cool on the cement stoop on hot summer days, making us terrified to step out of our own home, no matter how much Daddy reassured us they were harmless.
This job never fails to evoke this flood of memories and most of the time, despite the summer heat, and the dust thrown up from the blades, I don’t mind it. I could hire someone to do this work – after all, I’m in charge now, but it feels right to do it myself. To tend the home and lawn where I once played, where we had cookouts and turtle races; where we posed with our new lunch boxes on the first day of school; where my parents worked hard to makes this place a home. The old expression “You do for family” continually comes to mind. My parents are gone; they wouldn’t know the difference, yet I feel compelled to “do” for them, to mow, trim, and weed for a family that is no longer there, for a house that is no longer a home.
And so I spend a part of each summer Sunday tooling around on a mower, with a perpetual bruise on the inside of my leg where my knee bangs up against the levers on every turn, because I “do” for family.
Soon, the house will be sold. This labor of love will be done. I’ll be free to spend my Sundays at the lake or on my bike, but for now I do this task, to honor the memory of those who made it a home for me so many years ago.
© Huffygirl 2011