After awhile, being the laziest person on earth loses its appeal and changes have to be made. Overcoming the inertia isn’t easy, but it is possible. The weekend had come, and the sixteen year-old boy was looking for a challenge. The local newspaper that week had featured a picture of the smiling man, standing beside the sign that read, “Most Beautiful Lawn Award”. Now, there was something to aspire to, the pinnacle of achievement for anyone who had ever pushed an old Briggs & Stratton around the yard. It was to be a short-lived aspiration.
The property wasn’t well suited for growing any good turf, so there was a mixture of St. Augustine and Bermuda grass, along with a fair representation of crabgrass and grass burrs. I’ve realized in my later years that the Bermuda grass, which was cultivated and watered there, is considered to be a common weed by many lawn snobs. In that hot climate, they didn’t have the luxury of turning up their noses at any grass that would cover the ground and thrive. The grass burrs, on the other hand, were either a bane or a God-send, depending on your circumstance. If you were inclined to walk across yards barefoot, they were most certainly a bane, causing considerable discomfort. Conversely, if you were looking for ways to annoy your big brothers, the grass with it’s head abristle with prickly seedpods was perfect for picking a stalk and hurling it at someone’s back before beating a quick retreat out of reach. The victim would be in pain for a moment and then would perform the most entertaining gymnastics and contortions attempting to remove the offending attachment from his shirt back.
No, the grass in the lawn wasn’t going to help win any awards, but the overgrown mess in the backyard was more of an immediate issue, so the young man started there. With the help of a machete and a pair of hedge trimmers, he began to clear all the unsightly undergrowth below one tree. It was a tough job, with the many vines which grew up into the tree and from there into a couple of other trees nearby. He hacked and hacked at the large vines, some of them almost like small tree trunks themselves, measuring close to an inch in diameter. After a couple of hours of work, the boy was satisfied that the job was done and sat down to cool off and admire his work. Drinking a glass of Kool-Aid and feeling pleased with himself, he noticed his mom peering out the back door. Proudly, he got up and showed her the pile of debris which he would be carrying out to the brush pile later. She didn’t seem to be very happy. He even noticed that there were tears in her eyes. Without a word, she turned away and went back into the house, leaving him standing there in disbelief.
What in the world? Did she not know how hard he had worked here? Where was the praise? Where was the pat on the back? He threw the implements back into the garage in disgust, carried off the trash, and was done with his aspiration to have the Yard Beautiful.
It was years later that the subject of his short-lived experience with clearing the backyard came up. As they talked, he asked his mom if she knew how disappointed he had been with her reaction to his efforts. She gently asked if he remembered the beautiful Morning Glory that had blossomed in the back yard for many years as he grew up.
“Sure,” the man replied. “It was growing on–ohhhhhh.”
The light finally came on. He had worked hard for those hours with the intent of improving the yard, but had succeeded in destroying a beautiful shroud of vines which she had been nurturing for the better part of fifteen years. The brilliant blue blossoms had been seen in the early morning adorning the limbs of those trees, a perpetual veil of nature’s elegance; there because of those unsightly vines which rose in the air under the single tree from which he had chosen to clean out the undergrowth. At last, he understood his mother’s tears. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so she turned away to hide her sadness at the loss of all those years of her work and loving sustenance of the amazing plant. There were tears in her eyes again as they talked of it, as there were in his.
I still get a little misty eyed about the realization that I had killed my mother’s morning glory on that morning so many years ago. More importantly, I am in wonder that she had thought it essential to bear it privately, without excoriating me for my carelessness. What a lesson in selflessness, from a lady who was not given to an overabundance of such examples. Mom was always teaching and expecting better; sometimes even demanding it. That time, she chose to let the error pass, opting instead to keep quiet to achieve a greater good. It’s a lesson I’ll never get over.
We’ve all known people who, like that young man, don’t think before they act. Their intentions are good, but the result is still chaos. It’s good that we have the examples of life experiences, like the one above, to help us understand that sometimes we must show more concern for the motivation which drives the person than for the disaster which ensues.
Love, it seems, overlooks a multitude of wrongs.
These days, I always ask the Lovely Lady before cutting strange plants in the yard. It appears that there were other lessons to be gleaned from that disastrous day.
Experience is a pretty effective teacher.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
“I want some day to be able to love with the same intensity and unselfishness that parents love their children with.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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