Archive for May, 2012

Green Grass and Dandelions

I’d forgotten about this post.  I wrote it two years ago and stumbled on it today. It’s that time of year again and as Emily looks forward to college in the fall, and Audrey turns 15 today, it makes me a little nostalgic….

As soon as warmer weather hits, I, like many I know, get the itch to make things beautiful.  Last weekend, I spent 8 hours cleaning up, digging up, and planting up my front yard.  Every morning, I get tremendous satisfaction seeing that the new things are still alive and the old ones are thriving.  I’m aching to get going in the backyard… the weather needs to warm up a bit again.  Soon.

In the midst of the planning and planting, I find myself  pondering my lawn.  About four years ago, we used a chemical lawn care company to turn our grass into a lush green carpet.  I was never entirely comfortable with the idea of chemical fertilizer, but the compliments were enough to assuage my cognitive dissonance and I convinced myself to buy into the claims that the stuff they sprayed on the lawns–the stuff that stunk like chemicals–was surely all right.

Would we die from this stuff?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  But the larger question was:  Do I want chemicals sprayed all around my house, around my children, for the sake of an artificial standard?

I know… lawns are the stuff of summer.  When I envision the scene, it’s loaded with soft focused close-up images of toddlers’ bare feet in deep, green, soft grass.  There’s enough lemonade and puppies and sprinklers for everyone.  The image is Americana.

When I was a kid, our lawn was a conglomeration of dandelions and clover humming with honeybees; occasional blades of grass filled in the rest.  Our next door neighbors were far more diligent than we.  The mrs. would be on her hands and knees with a screwdriver, prying out the golden dandelions and dropping them into her large metal bucket.  The mr. would thatch every spring and fertilize.  Their lawn was beautiful.  A carpet of July heaven.

We didn’t walk on our neighbor’s lawn, much less play on it.  They discouraged it for fear it would be ruined.  And who could blame them?  If I worked that hard on my grass, I’d be protective of it, too.

And so, the neighborhood kids played Kick the Can and Capture the Flag and Red Rover and Running Bases at our house; and we did it barefoot and we stepped on bees and cried and had my mom slather her baking soda paste on the bottoms of our feet and out we went again, running well-worn paths along the shortest distances to “base.”  Yes, we knew the neighbors had a beautiful lawn, but it never occurred to us that ours wasn’t.

Don and I stopped using chemicals on our lawn two years ago and it’s not perfect anymore.  It’s thinning and the dandelions are dotting themselves recklessly throughout.  I don’t know how the neighbors feel about them and I don’t have the time or inclination to yank them.  I’m remembering the beautiful impromptu bouquets these named weeds became when I wanted to tell my mom that I loved her.  I remember how magical it was to blow their soft, fuzzy orbit of seeds away in the wind.

I guarantee that when my kids are grown, they won’t remember the state of beauty of our lawn.  They’ll remember tag and soccer and volleyball and zip lines.  And maybe it’s not too late to get a dandelion bouquet.