Casey and I both love our yard. We’ve completely redone it over the past five years and are proud of all we’ve accomplished. When we first moved in, it was way over-landscaped and that was way over-grown, not to mention Hurricane Isabel had just stormed through town and put the entire property under water. That first summer we were married, I would often spend an entire day pulling seaweed and trash out from inside the bushes.
Though we both love cutting the grass (hey – an hour of white noise = peace and quiet in my book!), last week we talked about hiring a neighborhood kid to do it instead. With two little rascals and home and a new job, Casey is guarded of the time he spends with them and an hour mowing the lawn on the weekends could be spent fishing on the pier, right? Anyway, we agreed that he would talk to our next door neighbor, a sweet teenager whom I’ve actually written about here before.
Oh, we did not know what we were getting into.
First off, he somehow convinced his grandad, John, to help him (a nice guy in his late-60′s who had a heart attack last year) and they came through the fence with their ancient riding mower. Ok, our yard is only a half acre, and we had told him to use our mower – a decent push mower with great mulching blades. Anyway, I ran out, Cooper on a hip and shouted, “Hey! You can use our mower!” “Nah,” Justin said with a shrug, “This is faster.” So off he rode, as John starting doing the edges with a 30 year old push mower. I looked out the window a few moments later to see his Grandma, Charlotte, sweeping the driveway. I crouched down, feeling really… odd about the whole thing. But it got worse. Looking up again, I saw his Great-grandma, Sylvia, on the other side, sweeping the sidewalk.
Let me stop for a moment and deliver a little back-story. We live in a very unique community. We are on a peninsula (our house is on the water) and at least half of our neighbors were born here, their parents were born here, and their parents before them. In fact, this Sylvia’s family used to own most of the peninsula, and John and Charlotte actually built the original structure of the house we live in. Charlotte has raised five children, now grown, and had raised three of her grand kids (Justin is the only one there now) and babysits once a week for her great-grandson. She is in her mid-50′s. They are the kind of neighbors who would give you the shirt off their back, who show up with mounds of veggies from their garden all summer, who always keep an eye out in the neighborhood. Justin has had a rough life – he was born addicted to cocaine and has only had his grandparents to look after him most of his life. They don’t have much and we hoped that hiring Justin would be an encouragement to him, as he seems pretty lonely, as well as give him a good way to earn some pretty easy money.
Back to today. I had to run out to buy some dog food, so I went outside with Kenny and Cooper in tow to give Justin his money before we left. The yard was a wreck – long grass all over the place – including an inch-thick blanket of it over the mulch in the flower beds – mulch it took us two weekends to spread not a month ago. They’d cut the grass so short it was tangled in clumps all through the yard and there were whole rows of ridges where they’d spaced the mower too much. I figured, surely they’re not done, don’t freak out yet, right?
Anyway, I’m looking around for Justin, so I stop Charlotte from her rather in-effectual sweeping and ask where he is. “Oh, he took a break. He’s probably in there eating ice cream!” ACK. Ok. “Can I give him the money we promised?” So she went over to get him and he came out, wiping his mouth. “You took a break?” I said in a teasing tone, “You were only out here a half hour!” He shrugged. I handed him the money. “Thanks,” he said. I told him to use our mower next time, and that he was welcome to use the blower to get all the grass. “Thanks,” he said again, and I left.
I came back to disaster.
The yard looked so bad. Clumps of grass everywhere, tons of missed spots and grass all over the sidewalk and mulch beds. It looked like someone had used a weed-whacker post-sweep and it was absolutely hideous. Casey got home from work and just stared. I offered to get out the blower and try to pile it up so we could bag it. I worked for 20 minutes without making a dent. We talked about going to get him and asking him to re-mow it with our mower, at least to shred up the grass, but Casey remembered that he had a ball game tonight. “I’ll re-do it – they’ll never know…” I said, and Case took the kids inside while I got out the mower. I looked up. Dark thunderstorm clouds loomed. I was not deterred.
I literally ran with the mower and went over the whole yard again, twice in some places, trying to shred the grass. Then I got the blower and started to blow off the mulch when the rain started and I had to go in. Casey and I looked at each other and laughed. At least we had the best of intentions…