Learning The “Ropes”

This week was filled with those first warm spring days in which you can’t help but smile every time you breathe.

I moved into the left side of this 100-year-old duplex last November when nature had gone dormant and so had I.

Six months later, buds are budding, birds are nesting, flowers are blooming, and my seasonal affective disorder has migrated for another year.

Gardening is an old friend, and it’s been especially comforting this year as I learn my way through this unfamiliar new life. Along with patient friends and a supportive family, what sustained me through the unusually harsh winter were thoughts of what was lying in my new yard beneath its snow and leaves and decay of last year’s growth.

‘What are you hiding and what might we grow together?’

This week we finally got acquainted, my yard and me, when I raked up, dug up, and pruned five 30-gallon bags worth of compostable material, and surveyed the early spring perennials and the beds in which they have emerged. I planned (at least in my head because god knows I’ll change my mind a hundred times when I walk into a nursery) what annuals I will plant come May and how much mulch I’ll need.

….ahhhhhh….I heart spring!

I watched, for the hundredth time, this video when I was with the g-babies the other day. It always makes me smile.

Spring is here, in all its complexity. It’s not perfect this year, it’s not what I expected, but it’s here nonetheless. And you know what? That’s gotta be OK because Mother Nature’s not asked any of us for our opinion.

Soooo….in getting all cool with my yard, I realized that gardening is familiar, but lawn work is not. The people who lived on the other side of the duplex – the ones who shoveled the walks this winter and would mow the yard this year – bought a house and moved out a few weeks ago, leaving yours truly with the keys to the shed. So a few days after doing what was familiar – gardening – I took on the unfamiliar. Mowing.

I earned my allowance and spending money cutting grass as a kid, but I haven’t pushed a mower in 30 years, let alone start one.

I heaved the mower from the shed and looked for some kind of button thingy that I remember pushing to prime the engine for easier starting. Apparently that went out with the dinosaur, and mowers have advanced in this post-ice-age technology.

I knew to hold up the metal bar on the handle and hang on to it as I pulled the rope to start it. But the motor was having none of it. After several attempts, I concluded that I was either A) too weak to pull the rope hard enough (why is self-depreciation always the first option?). But I assured myself that I work out diligently and am strong, so that really wasn’t an option; or B) I wasn’t priming it the right way.

“Hey, neighbor, want some help starting that thing?” a voice called from over the fence.

‘Crap,’ I thought. I couldn’t hide my mower-starting efforts with all the grunting and such and a motor taunting me with every pull: “Ummm….no. Ummmm…no. Try again. Ummm…..no.” My need for help was transparent.

I swallowed my self-consciousness and called back over the fence, “Yes, I could use some help.”

Mr. Neighbor came over, and within a few minutes, had the mower running. Like a patient father, he showed me how to move the throttle on the handle to start the mower properly. He insisted I try it myself a few times, and while that felt a little weird (I’m 47 for godsake!), I adjusted the handle throttle and pulled the rope and…by golly…it started every time! On the outside I was totally cool, but secretly inside I was doing a HUGE happy dance.

By the time my lesson was over, it was getting late and I had plans. No time to mow. So I dragged the mower to the porch and figured I’d get ‘r done first thing after the g-babies arrived today.

“This is Grammy’s mower!” I said to Claire and Luca, pushing the red monstrosity on to the yard. “You two stand back while I start it, OK?”

Moments later….

“What’s wrong, Grammy?” asked Claire. “Why won’t it start?”

Pull. Pull. PUUUUULLLL! Dammmmmmit!

I looked at them. They looked at me.

“Grammy, why can’t you start it?” Claire asked again.


What I’d normally have done is swear a lot and kick the tires and blame the machine. But I had a 3- and 2-year-old depending on me to be a responsible grandmother, so I took a deep breath and went over in my head yesterday’s instructions.

“Pull the throttle up to start and, holding this bar, move it down to get maximum power.”

I pulled the throttle forward, pulled the rope and YAY!! Mower power ensued! Vrrrooooom, vvvvvroom! Eureka!

Luca was impressed. He followed me all over the yard. Claire just gathered my hand tools and went to the driveway to dig up rocks. But the point is, I mowed my lawn – the first lawn in 30 years – and I did it well. I learned there are water-logged dips in the middle of my yard and water-deprived inclines. Whoever lived here before had a dog or three because there are clear indications of “This is my place to pee” dog markings.

But all in all, I think my yard and I are going to get along juuuuuust fine. In fact, I’ve gone outside more than a few times today or peeked through the blinds just to admire my “work.” God knows my shoulders and hamstrings are shot right now. Thank goodness for Advil. But I’ll adjust.

Hopefully we have a long summer ahead, full of gardening and mowing opportunities. I look forward to that planned peace.

Life, as my sister-in-law always reminds me, is good. It really is. Rough and bumpy as my lawn? Yes. Uncertain as spring? Yes. But we’re doing it and living it every day, so why not progress in those day-by-day infinitesimal moments by deciding to learn how to…for lack of a better metaphor…prime the mower the right way and start it?

***********SIDE NOTE!**************

Claire made the “That’s Church” blog today! That’s Church is a blog about everything Pittsburgh, and is written by the always honest and very funny Virginia Montanez.

Claire dictated a letter to her mom (my amazing daughter Cassie) for Pittsburgh Penguins player Sidney Crosby while he was recovering from his “brain boo boo,” as Claire calls it (a concussion). She included this picture she made for him, too:

The Pens sent her an autographed photo of Sid, and it’s become more important to her than her two previous favorite things: blanket and chickipoo.

Go Pens! Or as Luca says, “Uh, uh, PENS!!”

4 thoughts on “Learning The “Ropes”

  1. Go Lynnie on mowing that lawn! I've never ever done that. Quite impressed at your diligence with not letting the mower best you!

    So Claire is famous on a blog? Following in her Grammy's footsteps! 🙂

  2. I had my first ever experience with a lawn mower last week and survived. I'm amazed at the things I ca do. Thanks for your inspiration!

  3. Glad to hear you could start the mower for the grandkids 🙂 I can definitely picture myself in that situation for sure lol. Does feel good a job well done though for sure.

  4. I SO share your enthusiasm for Spring, Lynn. Was thinking about you last week when we brought home a puppy mill rescue golden retriever whose 4. Hope your new addition is doing well. We've been potty training her in the snow (yes, SNOW) since last Wednesday. Your post keeps reminding me that it IS Spring…..somewhere! lol

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