Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lady's Choice

                                              Still she stays with a love of some kind
                                              It's the lady's choice
                                              The hissing of summer lawns
                                                                             -Joni Mitchell
My backyardsee bust on right, to scale
It seems like a metaphor for something else, but it's true: if you walked down my street last Monday, you would have seen me sitting on a stool on my front lawn, sweating in the sun with a pair of scissors. Cutting the grass. Or you might not have seen me from the street because, when I was sitting on a stool, the grass was over my head.

           You might have seen an elderly woman with big, owlish eyes dressed in a nightgown, calling out to me from behind the screen door, "I think you're very foolish."

         You would have heard me yelling back, "Well, the feeling's mutual," before I realized I was agreeing with her. 

This was after I had kvetched to my neighbor, a family friend, who lent me her old-fashioned push-lawn-mower. The rusty blades twisted and swirled like a DNA double helix, inspiring confidence in its elemental form and function.

          "I've had this for 40 years," she said. "It never lets me down." 

          I broke it after making just two passes—just like my mother said I would. Before I could offer to pay her for a new mower, she squinted at my backyard and said, "I'll bring a shovel."

Even the Crazy Cat Lady who lives across the street, who has a kitchen sink, an old car, and a baby stroller displayed on her front lawn, she mows her grass.  Superman's mother, who lives down the street in a split-level and never smiles, mows her lawn. Like my mother, these women are both in their 80s. But unlike my mother, they live alone, their children long gone. Other people cut their grass.
         My mother forbids me to mow the lawn. 

          "Why?" you ask. "Why?" I ask her.

          "Because you'll run over the electric cord and electrocute yourself."

          "No, I won't."

          "Well, it's too difficult. The grass is too high and you'll break the machine--and I simply can't afford a new one."

          "Okay, let's just hire someone to cut the grass."

          My mother looks at me like I've asked her to commit suicide. "I know how to do it," she says. "I'll cut it myself."

          She's 86 and frail (when she's not mad) and we both know I would never let her mow the lawn. Still, I hear myself whining, "But when?"

Would I feel any less like a petulant child if I just gave up? What, I ask myself over and over, would the Dalai Lama do? Actually, he giggles and speaks Yiddish.

          Cut the grass, don't cut the grass, just be nice to your mother.

          So, it's settled. I'm the most UNspiritual person ever in the whole fucking history of the human race. 

My ex drops off our daughter, who is 14, and his son BB, who is four years old. My beautiful, sulky daughter sits on the front steps and reads. BB has big, adoring brown eyes and, because he is not a teenager, he still loves me. I find him another pair of scissors and he helps me cut the grass. 

          My daughter sighs dramatically. "Mother, you are so weird," she says. 

          "You think I'm weird—look at your grandmother."

          "She drives you crazy, doesn't she? Just like you drive me crazy." Ouch.

My mother gives me a shopping list:

10 bags garden soil @ $6.99 each
1 bag dessicated cow manure
2 4x4 frames for raised beds

          I'm sure there are telepathic beams shooting out of my eyes telling her she's out of her fucking mind, and I'm pretty sure her owl eyes are reflecting them back at me because before I know what I'm doing, I'm driving us to the nursery. 

White peony growing under the weeds


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