Of Mowing and Men

North Aurora was a hamlet. Barely over four hundred souls resided there. By the time my family and I left it would be home to ten times that many. Before it lost it’s identity, to become little more then the vanguard of suburbia, we called it home.
It was a time of fresh eggs from the farm only a block or two away. Of milk delivered to the back steps each morning at dawn’s early light. Children running free in backyards, or down streets covered in tar… teasingly holding on
to small shoes, on late spring afternoons. Asphalt and sidewalks were years away. A time when a child’s thoughts were little more then of big dreams and the limitless opportunities which lay ahead. Optimism reigned supreme,
cynicism having yet to cast it’s brand on youthful psyches. We were sponges, absorbing all which was around us. And on this particular Saturday afternoon, it was time for a lesson …
The child sat on the front stoop of his family’s mansion, while a taller version of himself began the weekly battle against the growing sea of green ‘tween the shorelines of house and street. Between the sound of cicadas and the rhythmic sing-song of blade against blade-guard, grass the now shortened silent victim. (It should be noted this was not a gas sucking, two-stoke whining terf thrasher. No, this implement of blue grass destruction was powered by wheels, gears, and the sweat of man.)
The boy watched as his father criss-crossed the yard before him, shoulder’s glistening with a faint sheen, as the afternoon sun worked on reproducing last summer’s tan. Even then, the child wanted to emulate the man. On this day, that feeling, honorable it may be, would prove his undoing.
Striding purposefully over to the wielder of the blades, came the question;
“Dad, can I push too?” (Asked with such innocence, in complete disregard to the line he was crossing.)
“Sure, you can help push.” “Here, stand in front of me and place your hands next to mine on the handles.”
The boy did so.
After several lengths of the yard had been crossed, not realizing the larger member of this “two manned mowing team” had been providing most of the muscle, the boy again spoke up.
“Hey Dad, this doesn’t seem hard at all.” “Why it’s actually kinda fun!!”
“Oh?”, replied his father. “You think so?” (If he was chuckling, the boy hadn’t noticed.)
“Yeah, can I try to do this by myself?”
“You think you can handle it?”
“Well….ok….just remember to stay inside the last path you cut, and keep it straight!!”
Oh, dear seven year old! You have just had the deal closed on you, and don’t even realize it! No, much more important is what that seven year old did remember…and does to this day. Not only the pride he felt in himself in being allowed to do “something grown up”. But the look he saw in his father’s eyes. The look which saw his son taking his first real step out of child hood, wanting to help his old man “work around the house”.
Other chores (As they came to be known, the simple childhood joy of discovery, replaced with the teenage self-centeredness of “why me”.) would be added, along with “the lowering of the green yard weed”. But none would be like that first time of sharing between father and son.
Today would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. He’s been gone a bit over seven years now…I still miss him.

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