Feed Me, Seymour!

July 31, 2006 at 9:25 am (Uncategorized)

A great miracle occurred yesterday – my husband did yard work. For more than five minutes. Without grumbling. As a result of his efforts, we can now walk from our house to our detached garage without being attacked by the five foot tall noxious weed I’d taken to calling Gladys the Destroyer.

I know what you’re thinking. You are wondering if I am one of those people who have fluffy, green lawns manicured to the perfect one-inch length, and yet who still thinks the grass looks crappy and that my husband should be out there toiling under the sun, edging the grass with cuticle scissors.

That’s not me. We have lived in our present home for almost two years, and not once have we trimmed a weed or a blade of grass nor have we sprinkled a drop of water in our yard. There was actually no need to at first. Previous owners landscaped the property with indigenous low water plants, so the place looked quite delightful our first spring. Orange poppies sprung up, as did mint and basil in a tiny herb garden. Irises bloomed along the fence; the apple tree unfolded its flowers majestically; lavender exploded. There was rhubarb and some exotic-looking plants with great, drooping flowers in one of the enclosed beds in our large back yard. The prior occupants had even built a wooden walkway that threaded through the plants and the trees. Little birdhouses dangled from the trees. Given their interest in keeping to plant species indigenous to Montana’s semi-arid climate, these green-thumbed folks hadn’t put in grass, which sucks up water like a sponge.

Then nature took its course. The poppies, lavender, rhubarb, and apple blossoms reappeared this spring – along with a whole lot of weeds. Thigh-high weeds sprung up and dried out to look like straw in the once-orderly beds and along the fence lines with our neighbors’ place. Weeds frame the mailbox, and are the centerpiece of our front “lawn.” Kate, our predatory six-pound cat from Palau who looks more like a civet than a domestic animal, culled the bird population. I’ve seen her perched atop each of the feeders and bird houses just daring the next generation to land. To sum up, our property is one of the seediest (no pun intended) in town. I half-expect the police to show up with a complaint from our neighbors that our yard is a hazard.

But, like I said, I’m not a yard person, and neither is Jay. When the sun is shining and the skies are blue, the last thing we want to do is grab the weed whacker and spend a day edging. Let’s go for a hike, or a bike ride, or even stay inside and read a book. Let’s not stand stooped over some choking, smoking equipment. Plus I am convinced that pesticides have played a role in my developing chronic, multi-system sarcoidosis, so I really have no interest in spraying some toxic brew around my house in the name of having a lawn. And then there’s the whole environmental angle: why waste water and gasoline on the two-stroke engines of lawn mowers and weed whackers for something as trivial as a lawn? That’s what parks are for. And by visiting the park, we are taking a stand against the privatization of leisure space that marks this country.

And then we had a kid, and I started to look longingly at the lovely lawns of our friends and neighbors. Look at all the succulent green space! Look at those barefoot children bounding across soft, green grass! If Andrew ventures into our back yard, I fear he will be either attacked by the mother deer who calls our weed patch home or get swallowed up by the thicket of weeds that are taller than he is.

Jay, however, took some convincing. First, he claimed that he had been forced to do countless hours of cruel and backbreaking yard labor when he was a child and was permanently scarred as a result. Since he comes from a family that didn’t require him to ever clean a bathroom, do his own laundry, mop a kitchen floor, or dust (lucky bastard!), I find the whole idea of him toiling under the hot sun a little hard to believe. Then there’s his stubbornness. When Jay gets an idea in his head, nothing will change it. For instance, he believes forks are an unnecessary aspect of the salad-eating experience. Why not just grab a handful of lettuce and enjoy? No matter how much I whine and plead for him to please use a freaking fork at the dinner table, he persists in his caveman-lite eating style. After nearly ten years of marriage, I’ve learned that, at best, I can nudge him in a direction – say, to get him to use a fork to eat his salad in a restaurant or when we’re at a friend’s house. Similarly, the anti-lawn stance was part of Jay’s idea about himself, and there would be no changing it. And to be honest, I wasn’t about to launch a get-your-ass -into-the-yard campaign when he was doing the dishes, a lot of cooking, working full-time, spending most of those earnings on doctors, getting up in the middle of the night with our son, and doing the laundry. I know when it’s time to shut up and count your blessings.

Then Gladys the Destroyer came along. When you went out the back door, Gladys shot prickles at you. Andrew couldn’t use his sandbox anymore, because Gladys had claimed that area. Even Jay and I stopped trying to brave Gladys to take the short route to the garage and just took to going around and opening the main door when we needed to get in. The plant grew exponentially every day. Really, it was like the man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors. It was just a matter of time until Gladys devoured Andrew.

So, we borrowed a weed whacker from our friends. Jay insisted on doing yard work yesterday. Since Gladys and her companions had come to resemble sequoias more than weeds, my fearless husband attacked them with a bow saw, not the weed whacker. It was unbelievable. He was out there for something like an hour, and he cleared a path from the house to the garage. Andrew was thrilled to have his sandbox back. Jay was puffed up with pride. And I was pretty convinced my husband was suffering a psychotic break with reality, especially when he told me that he would do twenty minutes of weed whacking a day on the rest of the property. (I had tried to handle the machine myself, but it made my sore arm throb.)

I guess this just goes to show you that there are no limits to love. The image of Jay hacking down weeds for Andrew and me is etched in my memory. He weeded for us! What more can I want from this marriage and this wonderful man? And then I remember that I threatened to go to Home Depot and buy the most expensive weed whacker if he didn’t get out there and clean the place up. Oops. Who knows, maybe if I start talking about buying a new set of silver, he’ll pick up a fork when it’s salad time. Now that would be true love.

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