I’ve always hated cutting the lawn. I understand there are very few people walking the streets of Leaside who actually enjoy cutting the lawn (unless of course they’re sitting luxuriously on a cushy riding mower), but still I dislike the job with a passion that has only grown in the intervening decades. I suspect my father detested the task as well given that he taught my twin brother and me how to use our big, ancient, loud and terrifying electric mower when we were about six years old. Okay, I exaggerate. We were probably eight. And that mower was a beast. It was quite the antique, so the wheels were worn down lowering the whole unit for a much closer shave. Whenever I finished the lawn, there were several completely bald spots where the blades had not just cut the grass down to the ground but tilled the first few centimetres of dirt for good measure. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We grew up on the corner of Parkhurst and Donegall. Yes, the corner. You probably know what that means. Most Leaside homes have a modest patch of lawn out front that carries down to the sidewalk. But if you had the “good fortune” to be responsible for landscaping the grounds of the corner house, it’s a whole different ballgame. Our lawn went on…forever. I think you could have landed an air ambulance on our front lawn. It was enormous. It stretched along the entire property line south along Donegall, and then west along Parkhurst. It felt like acres of terrain. But there’s more.
Three other factors added to my lawnmowing woes. First, there was a rather pronounced slope in the grass along the front of the house, which meant muscling the mower along on a steep angle, while not always avoiding the cement curb that bordered the grass. Second, there was a blue spruce just slightly smaller than a Saturn V rocket on the Parkhurst side of the lawn. You might reasonably think that the tree reduced the grass-cutting area – surely a benefit. Not so much. The grass actually grew under the lowest boughs of the giant spruce thus requiring me to push the mower underneath, thrusting my arms in among the branches. The spruce needles were more lethal than an attack of wild porcupines. Finally, we had grass on three different levels of elevation in front of our house, all bordered by flagstones. So, it meant hauling and hoisting that aforementioned behemoth of a lawnmower up to each different level, and then back down again. I can still feel my (modest) muscles protesting.
And then there’s the cord. You’d need the National Research Council and perhaps the Canadian Space Agency to figure out how best to navigate the lawn to minimize the number of times you have to flip the cord over your head. Believe me, I’ve tried every possible path, including what I call the random Roomba run. It took a few electrifying cord-cuttings before I decided on a path that seemed to work. It soon became ingrained. It must be more than 40 years since I last cut the lawn, yet I still know that optimal route cold.
And here’s the thing. When I finally figured out how best to tackle the job, I could cut that entire lawn in just over half an hour. It really didn’t take that long. Yet, I’d procrastinate with the creativity of the condemned. I’m sure I expended more mental energy and anguish avoiding the weekly job than I ever did actually cutting the grass. I once invoked the bird’s nest in the spruce tree filled with baby robins to forestall revving up the monster mower. I mean, what kind of person traumatizes robin chicks just so the lawn looked nice?
On a more positive note, nowadays our two sons share the task of cutting our much smaller lawn, and I couldn’t be happier as I watch them push our high-tech cordless battery-powered mower. It takes them about 10 minutes flat. I frequently remind them how it was in the old days.