Keep Off the Grass







October 4th  2:37pm

“You see that, Richard?” How many times have I had to point this out? Tell me, Lord. How many? “That’s why we bought this property! That’s why we live here!”  As expected, Richard is being difficult. His usual myopic self. He doesn’t want to see the big picture. And father warned me, didn’t he? Several times.

The man lacks vision, among other things. Instead of appreciating what I’ve done here, what I’ve accomplished (in just a few short months, by the way)— he’s just staring down at his loafers. Just sulking. You’d think I asked him to rewire the house or replace every single shingle on the roof, instead of taking a few minutes out of his oh-so-busy Wednesday to rake some leaves. So melodramatic. Such a martyr.

Well if he won’t admire it, I will.

The lawn is flawless. I don’t know about most people, but I value symmetry. Look at those mowing paths. Crisp, clean stripes. Each one perfectly parallel. Each one running perpendicular to the house. My guys use GPS and assure me of less than a 16th of an inch margin of error. And the color. It is a color of green that shouldn’t even exist. I’ve heard people throw around the word “emerald”— Nonsense! Far too simplistic if you ask me, I don’t think the word does it justice. I don’t think any word could.

And you should have seen it before. It was enough to make eyes bleed. The former owners let weeds run roughshod over the property. And those ugly Azaleas scattered across the yard? Where was the rhyme or reason? The people were slobs. Just like the neighbors, with their crabgrass and half-dead Rhododendrons. Please. What an unruly mess.

Honestly, some people just don’t care. They don’t even try. They just think… what? Things are going to make themselves beautiful? Order will simply impose itself? Ridiculous. Foolish. And worse, lazy.

Well not me. I wasn’t going to let 1.73 acres just lie fallow. I’m sorry, but I just happen to think one’s backyard shouldn’t resemble a landfill. I was taught that the lawn is a reflection of one’s values— a green mirror that shows the rest of the world what you’re made of.

So yes, I invested, I invested a lot. I had the best people, a little landscaping firm out of Salisbury (they’re really more of a boutique, designed a few golf courses, the terrazzo at Chez Margot, things of this nature)— I had them rip those natty weeds up, and oh yes, while they were at it… level the acreage, make it as smooth as a pane of glass. Because lumps are unsightly. I don’t want to see them on the back of my thighs. I don’t want to see them in a bowl of cake batter. And I don’t want to see them in my backyard.

Go on. Take a closer look. You see what I’m talking about? This is no ordinary lawn. This is no ordinary grass. It’s Creeping Bentgrass. Maybe you’ve heard of a place called “Augusta National”? No?  Well, it’s what The Masters uses for their putting greens. This is a quality of grass that world-class golfers play on. Tight and compact. It can be mowed to within 0.9 centimeters of the root system. That’s how you get that nice, flat finish. That’s how you get a lawn that resembles an unsullied chalkboard. And this is the way it was meant to look: uniform, blemish free, like a fine polished stone. Father always said— you should be able to eat off a lawn, it should be as clean as your bed linens, as spotless as your body. This is the way it was meant to be, the way it should always be.

But it’s by no means easy.

Things like pine straw and twigs and toys and bugs and seeds and footprints and dirt (we have lawns to cover up dirt, in case you didn’t know) and… ugh, leaves— they ruin everything. They defile order and beauty.

God, I hate Autumn.

Who wants a bunch of dead things littering their lawn? It’s morbid. No, I didn’t pay good money to have my lawn covered in leaves, to have a backyard that resembles a child with Measles. It’s the damn trees that are to blame. There are nine enormous Elms on the property and they are monstrosities. They’re grotesque. Misshapen. Infested with rodents. There’s a giant one right in the middle of the yard, dead center, an ugly brown tumor blotting out the sky. And like I said, the constant dandruff trees produce— why look right now, right there!

“Another one! Another one, Richard!”

I point to the wrinkled dead thing spinning slowly to the lawn.

“Okay,” he mumbles. “Well…”

Soon, more catch my eye. They’re so awful. Worse than spiders.

“And another! And another! Just like that, ruined! Already! Everything ruined!”

“Let’s just try and remain calm,” Richard tells me, in that irritating somnambulant voice of his. That’s his problem. Too calm. No drive. No passion.

“What are we talking about, Richard? Huh?” I motion at the lawn, to the six new leaves scattered from one end to the other. “Why are we talking? Why aren’t we doing something about them?

After yet another melodramatic sigh, Richard grabs his rake and the plastic bag. He shuffles towards the grass, but I stop him. Honestly, must I do all the thinking around here?

“Shoes, Richard! Take. Off. Your. Shoes.”

“Again? Really?”

“Yes… really,” I insist. What a stupid question. When have shoes ever been allowed on the lawn?

“Cynthia, it’s like 40 degrees,” he moans. Instead of leaning down to remove those shoes, he’s standing here like our 5 year-old son, wasting time and whining.

“Yes. 40 degrees. Well above freezing. Could you try and be part of the solution, for once? Just once. Is that possible?”

There we go. Shoes off. He’s moping out—

“Watch the rake, Richard! Don’t drag it!”

He shakes his head back and forth, in that oh-woe-is-me way that pretty much sums up his entire approach to life. What a sad man. What a sad little man. If people only knew, if they only knew what I had to endure.

“Today, Richard! Sometime today would be nice!”

And now, finally, he’s out there, limply brushing a leaf into the bag… but I can see that it will make no difference. The trees are in full revolt— three falling from that tree, seven from that one. The Elm in the back has already shed another twelve leaves. It’s sickening to watch, if I’m to be honest. It really is.

“You know what, Richard?” I holler as loud as I can, because the man is going deaf. “Just forget it! Forget it! It’s pointless! I’m going to have the trees removed! All of them!”

He turns and stares at me. His mouth falls open. He looks like a rabbit or a woodchuck. Like one of those anthropomorphic animals on my son’s cartoons. Slowly he crosses the lawn, and of course he’s forgotten the rake and bag, just left them there like garbage.

He stops a few feet from the patio and puts his hands on his bulging midsection and cocks his head and asks, “Did you say you want to… remove the trees?”

“First of all, get off the yard. You’re not a lawn ornament, Richard.”

He steps onto the teak patio and starts putting his shoes back on. “Listen, I really have to get back to the office.” He attempts to smile and then motions over his shoulder. “You are joking about the trees, aren’t you?”

I’m not going to even dignify the question with an answer. I just examine him, notice the lint on his collar, the zigzagging crease in his tie, the long grey hair corkscrewing out of his ear.

“Cynthia, come on,” he pleads. He always panics when I go silent. He always starts to sweat.

“They’re going, Richard.” I tell him. “I’m going to make a cup of tea and then I’m calling the landscapers and they… are going.”

His mouth opens, then closes, then opens again. “But they’re beautiful… and they’ve got to be hundreds of years old. We just got here. Do you really think we have the right to… to erase all that history? Seems wrong to me. Really wrong.”

“Are you through? Is your little philosophy lesson over yet?”

“I don’t know… are you serious about this?”

“I want to tell you something, Richard. You are through. You can go back to work. I’ll take care of things, like I always do.”


“Goodbye,” I tell him, and enter the house and start my tea.



November 16th  3:51pm

My guys are good. Consummate professionals. Ripping those trees out was no easy task, I can tell you. Some of the root systems had clawed their way to within a few yards of the home’s foundation. In a few years, who knows? They might have brought the whole house down. Or split open a sewage pipe. Can you imagine? Well not anymore. Tick off one less worry to keep me up at night.

You know, I thought I loved the lawn before, but now. Now… nothing stands in the way of grass and sky. Two perfect planes. One green. One blue. It’s like a cubist painting, it really is. Only much, much bigger. And all mine.

Oh, and you can forget about any more flotsam and jetsam on the grass. That headache is a thing of the past. But I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to remind me that the neighbors have trees, that there’s such a thing as wind, that leaves will eventually find their way onto my lawn.

Oh really? I wonder how. I wonder how any leaf is going to make its way over the thirty foot walls I had erected around the perimeter of the property. Go on. Do the math. That’s 360 inches of protection. 360 inches that add up to one thing. Piece of mind. Nothing gets in here. Nothing lands on the lawn anymore.

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to sit in the living room and just stare out, lose yourself, without any distractions, any unwanted debris, and admire that perfect green plane. My only complaint is the house doesn’t have enough windows. For instance, I’m in the kitchen right now making some tea, and there’s no way to admire the lawn, no way to—

I hear laughter. Laughter in the backyard. I sprint to the sliding glass door and snatch it open.

“Thomas! Thomas, what are you doing?

“Blowing bubbles,” my son answers. He’s standing in the backyard. Standing there in shoes. He’s got a plastic bottle in one hand and a tiny wand in the other. And he’s wearing his father’s off-kilter grin.

“Actually… Thomas,” I tell him, pointing at the petroleum smeared bubbles touching down on the lawn. “Actually, you’re fouling the grass with harmful chemicals. You’re killing it. Do you want to kill things, Thomas? Is that what you would call fun?”

After he brushes out the shoe prints on the lawn, we go inside and put the bubble toy where it belongs. In the trash.



December 25th  8:03am

The alarm must not have gone off. The bed is empty. The drapes are still drawn. I rub my eyes and shuffle into the kitchen and begin making myself some tea. I really can’t function without my first cup in the morning. It’s in this half-sleep, waiting for the tea to steep, when I hear a soft chuckle from the living room.

Richard is peeking through the drapes and laughing. The man has the strangest sense of humor. Sometimes I wonder if his mind isn’t going soft.

I ask him, “What’s so funny, Richard?”

He snorts under his breath. “You’ll see. You’ll see.”

Then he pulls the cord at the window and the drapes whisper back and my cup of Chamomile tea falls and shatters on the floor.

Oh dear God, no. It’s snowing.