It's that time of year again.
That time of year when I look out onto my suburban neighborhood court and find a landscaping truck with a long trailer filled with all sorts of tractor equipment. A dozen men jump off of the truck and swarm the court. They go to work on all of the lawns on the court. Well. Except for mine.
I watch everyone's lawns dark green without crabgrass and never a dandelion to be seen. Gardens are freshly edged and yards of mulch are laid around the blooming azaleas.
We have not taken part in this opportunity. My husband feels that we have 3 teenage sons capable of helping with weekly grass cutting. I whole heartedly agree. Landscaping and yard work has been a family affair for nearly 7 years. All three boys have been indoctrinated into the special lawnmower club. We rotate the schedule. Each taking turns week after week.
A couple of weeks ago we learned that we would be receiving a visit from out of town family. When we looked at our calendars we were truly pressed for time to complete the magnitude of yard work staring at us from beyond our windows. It was unbelievable to me how much work could be produced by a simple quarter acre. I asked my husband to consider getting a price quote from the company that pulls up on our court. He complied.
We received the quote in a timely manner. It was over $600 to clean out our gardens, mulch, fertilize and cut the grass - one time. My husband was immediately in refusal. I however wasn't as easily deterred. With family coming - sometimes you do what you have got to do.
It's funny how the money is the bottom line for my husband. But the bottom line for me was WHEN they were able to get to work. When they called to discuss the quote, I asked them when they would be able to get to our lawn. I was informed it would be a minimum of two weeks.
This would be well beyond the family visit - so they were of little use to me now. I remarked to my husband that I couldn't understand how people could claim that the economy was so bad and how small companies were suffering. When a small landscaping company in suburban USA was overwhelmed with people willing to pay $600 for someone else to mulch their gardens and cut their grass.
Son #1 returned from school one day to learn of our exploration of a lawn service. The papers were sitting out on the kitchen island. He was less than pleased. As a nearly 17 year old getting ready to embark on paying for his own gas money, he was more than willing to volunteer. He was offended that we had not thought of him and offered him the job first. My husband and I discussed it a couple of times. WE decided that he should be given the opportunity. He and my husband struck a deal. Son #1 would take on the job all by himself and we would pay him - though it would be nowhere near $600. When you are just trying to put gas in your tank for a Friday night - beggars won't be choosers.
Since the time that they struck the deal - I have waited for the work to commence. We had a great deal of rain and the days that it wasn't raining he was busy with friends and other plans. I secretly harbored a resentment that we had thought him to be much more mature than he actually would demonstrate. I gently reminded my son that if the landscaping company were performing the work, they would commit to a day and complete the task. They wouldn't leave us hanging, wondering when they might show up should they not have a better offer elsewhere.
So today Son #1 decided to begin the job. I watched him out in the backyard. We live with a large piece of wooded property beyond our property line where we keep a compost pile. Son #1 raked the gardens, placed the leaves and such onto a large tarp and then proceeded to drag his bounty to the woods to empty the tarp. He repeatedly executed this cycle dozens of times.
After a couple hours of work, he came inside to ask us to take a look at his work to see if it was the caliber we were looking for. I'll give him this - it was an added customer service bonus. He appeared to truly be concerned that he was doing a job worthy of the money. We pointed out a few exceptions but for the most part - he was working hard and we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
Yesterday I had purchased some flowers for the front step and hanging baskets for my shepherd's hooks decoratively placed in the front yard. After walking the perimeter of the backyard with Son #1, I strolled to the front yard. I glanced at my front garden. It was in full bloom with bleeding hearts, purple and fuchsia azaleas. The iris that had been from my great grandmother's garden were growing tall and the formation of buds were in the beginning stages. The peony plants from my father's mother's yard had doubled in size since last spring and contained large tight buds that would be blooming in the coming weeks.
The weeks of May are usually my favorite time for that front garden. I went to the garage and got my gardening gloves. I got on my knees and started pulling the leaves out of that garden and clipping the dead shoots leftover from the last bloom. It felt good to get out there and take care of that garden. To reach in and pull out the old, nasty lifeless remnants and make room for the fresh formations pushing their way through.
It began to rain. There had been no rain in the forecast. Yet, here it was raining. It began to hinder my work. Suddenly, Son #1 rounded the corner of the house from the backyard. He looked at me. He looked at the garden. He looked at the pile on the front brick walk.
It took a moment to register I think. But right after he recognized that I had been working - essentially doing his job - he yelled at me.
"Mom! What are you doing? I am supposed to be doing that? If Dad finds out you did this he is going to dock my pay. You need to stop."
With that, he was bending down and bagging all of the mess, sweeping the bricks of the dirt and squirting it down, shooing me away from it all.
It made me laugh. When did that happen? When did the little boy who was always looking for someone to help him with any sort of job no matter how minor become the individual standing in front of me? It reminded me of a time long ago. A time when he first began cutting the grass at 10 years old.
He had cut the grass for the first time. It didn't look like the other perfectly manicured lawns that surrounded us. I looked out across the yard to find curving rows with patches left undone. The clippings left all over the driveway or patio - the leaf blower was just entirely too heavy for him to carry. Edging would be too much to ask. I specifically remember that moment when I thought,
"One day, it won't always be like this. One day he will do the job like a man and I will remember the mangy lawn of that 10 year old boy."
Today was the day I saw him do the job like a man. Not because he was hauling the heavy leaves. Not because he worked for hours. But because when he saw me working and rather than taking advantage of getting some help from his mother he wanted to do it himself. He made it clear he didn't want my help.
He felt responsible. It was important to him that he do it himself. Correctly. He clearly wanted our approval. More importantly he wanted the self satisfaction of a job well done.
I am pleased that we provided this opportunity for him. That we showed that we trusted him. That we set high expectations for him. We gave him the chance to find those adult qualities that are beginning to blossom inside of his adolescent frame and put them to use.
And like a real man - he wanted to be paid accordingly. After all a man has bills to pay, doesn't he?
"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~Thomas Alva Edison