I am pushing a pink plastic toy lawnmower. I am his shadow, his ladybug. I am the epitome of the tom boy. Pigtails, overalls, thick soled sneakers that we kids from the 70's wear. We are practicing our Saturday morning Midwestern Summer ritual. Me and my Dad. He cuts the grass on a diagonal which defines my love of symmetry and clean lines at the age of eight. There is a beginning of the ritual, the pulling of the handle with the string. It's that motion I love on all kinds of machinery. The turning on of something. Flip. The. Switch. A motion of strength, authority, the taking care of business. I mimic him exactly and make the noises to match with my mouth. Rummm, rummm, rummm. I am in charge of my machine. "Ready sweetie?" he says. "Yes, let's go, Dad!" I follow him in his pulled up white socks, Bermuda shorts and t-shirt. Round and round back and forth methodically not missing a beat I keep up. Even though it's before noon it is hot, that inescapable Midwest muggy heat. We take a break in the middle of our job. Mom always brings out the same things - a paper towel to wipe his brow and three huge glasses of arctic cold homemade Lipton iced tea - clean, crisp and unsweetened. "Oh goodness Stan, wipe your brow." She says coming at him with the paper towel. "Yes, ok I've got it" he says trying to kiss her with his sweaty face. She lets him with a laugh as he takes the towel from her wiping away the beads of Summer heat. We sit on Grandpas swing in the shade in silence for a moment. We drink, we cool down. So cold. Brainfreeze.
Once the last drop of tea goes down we are back to it. I cannot wait, as once we are done I know we will go to the pool or a movie or someplace fun. Chores first, fun second. Work hard, play hard. We push on through. We are now at the end the final row the final length where we stop and look at our handiwork. Tis a gleaming shining forest of green and that smell of the fresh cut grass that always brings me back to Indiana. "Good job honey" he says, "I couldn't have done it without your help".
Now to my favorite part as I get to finish our task. I get to spray the hose to clean off our rigs, our equipment. This usually ends in both of us somewhat drenched and laughing and us getting Mom all wet as well. It does again today as I can't resist spraying at him and he gets the hose back from me as I scream with delight as he sprays me, Mom and our dog Scuffy as we run around the yard.
Little did I know that my prowess with the pink plastic toy would lead to my owning this job, the mowing of the lawn until I leave the nest. Excellent trickery. But I always loved the job, the well-done of it afterwards, the motion of it, the Zen of it. In high school I'd practice my speeches or lines from a play while doing it, the pushing and pulling of our JCPenney's brand yellow mower. This manual labor, the work of the hands, the taking care of things when you use them I learned from both of my parents who have always worked so hard and given me and my brother so much. Was a good lesson.