One of the best things about raising children is all of the firsts that happen for each child.
When I was young, living in the old house on Bright Street, my father would mow the lawn with this really old tank of a lawn mower. This was still in the days that when the equipment broke, you fixed it multiple times before you threw it away. The mower was a red affair with a dented gas cap that would cross the threads if placed without care.
I would watch my dad mow with precise lines the small lawn in front of my childhood home. I always wanted to help and often, I would follow in his foot steps, watching the impressions of his feet in the newly mowed lawn.
My trailing behind dad could not have lasted long. He, I’m sure could not have known that I was behind him all the time, and he, of course, realized how dangerous it was for me to be directly behind him when he would stop and turn.
That is how I think I found myself pushing on the middle rung of the lawn mower shortly after my fascination for the lawn mower gave me the great idea to follow dad’s footsteps. Mowing the lawn quickly became what my dad always knew it to be, work. Dad even adjusted the angle on the handle as to accommodate my short stature.
Suddenly, and without warning my interest landed me a weekly gig whether I wanted it or not.
I think that was the moment that I realized summers would never be the same. I found myself cast out of paradise, East of Eden, thrust out of Arcadia, my idyllic childhood was over, and like Wordsworth, I wondered,
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
What I could not have known was that I was taking my very first steps into manhood. I don’t even remember how old I was. But I have to thank you, dad.
This last Saturday, Jesse and I woke early and cleared the yard of abandoned toys and other things the young horde had scattered about and gassed up the push mower. Jesse had asked me if he could try mowing a little bit of the lawn, and I willingly obliged.
I could not help but secretly smile in contemplation of the rite of passage Jesse was about to perform. The difficulty is that my yard does not resemble the memory yard that I have of my childhood home. I currently live on the side of a hill and my idyllic lawn of the past was flat (it was a good thing too because that old mower was a monster–and may I add, heavy beyond all reason.)
I mowed the more difficult part of the lawn myself then I had Jesse come up to the mower and push in front of me. I thought that he was tall enough to use the normal push bar, but I was wrong. He is just at the awkward stage, nothing seems to fit. (Sarah can attest to this since she has the Sisyphean task of keeping him in clothes.)
As soon as Jesse made a few passes with the lawn mower, I knew that he was done. The desire had worn off. He had discovered that mowing the lawn is only glamorous as a spectator sport.
Of course, Griffin and Sarahmay had to have their turns, not wanting to be left out of all the fun. So I let them have a go at it. It seems that Sarahmay was the only one who really enjoyed it. Her enjoyment was probably the direct result of her daddy doing all of the work right behind her. You see, the glory and the dream for her at least have not faded.
As I finished the lawn, my neighbors were gathered, enjoying the visual sport. They mentioned that I had passed one of the great milestones on my path of Fatherhood.
Thinking about the rocky road ahead, a road full of preteens and teens, young adulthood and parenting, I think my path is more ahead of me than behind.