Monday, May 23, 2016

Prejudice

I should be working on a ten page research paper right now, but my brain is swirling with thoughts and emotions that will leak out my eyes if I don't drain them through my fingertips into the keyboard.  Bear with me.

I am prejudice.  I think it takes a lot of courage to admit that.  Of course, everyone is prejudice in their own way.  Even someone who seems perfectly political correct can show a moment of weakness.  Thankfully, when confronting prejudice, walking a mile in someone's shoes can expose the error of one's ways, and I have recently had the opportunity to do so.

As a teenager, I HATED mowing the lawn.  By hate, I mean loathed with all of the fiery passions of H-E-double toothpicks with a side of manure-coated disdain.  I can remember two occasions when my brother and father were not available for some inconceivable reason (car show probably), and my mother decided I needed to “build character” out in the scorching, dry heat.  If you ever thought your mom didn't love you for taking away your phone, grounding you from the television, or not letting you attend a friend's birthday party so you could visit Aunt Myrtle in a nursing home, you were wrong.  She did those things because she loved you.  But if she made you mow the lawn, there is a pretty good chance that her enduring love was diminishing. So, on those two summer mornings when my teenage sassiness made my mother question giving birth to me, she ordered me outside with some excuse about how I needed to “contribute to the household” and “build character” and yada yada yada.  I stared into her blackening soul, and beneath her look of wisdom was smugness because she knew that as I stomped outside in my capris and flip flops, I was going to be humbled beyond measure.

It never occurred to me that mowing the lawn would be painful until I powered up the machine, and razor blades of grass whipped around my exposed ankles like miniature tornadoes of ninjas.  I sucked up the pain as my uncalloused hands gripped the vibrating handle, pinching my palms with the lever.  I leaned forward and pumped my legs, propelling the mower across the lawn while the deafening sound rattled my ears and dislodged a tooth or two.  The vibrations of the motor weakened the muscles in my arms.  Between getting caught in hidden dips in grass and maneuvering around trees and a swing set without the luxury of backing up, it felt as though two noodles had replaced my once-useful limbs, making it nearly impossible to heft the devil equipment around my obstacle course of a yard. I swore with every foul word I could muster, “Dagnabbit!  Freakin’ grass!  Stupid mower!  How the heck do people do this every week?!  I swear I will never make my dang kids mow the lawn.  I will love my friggen kids. Sweet mother of Jefferson Davis!  Who put a stinkin’ rock in the grass?!  DAGUMMIT!”

I survived the experience and forgave my father for shirking his sheltering duties and my mother for finding teaching opportunities with heavy machinery not appropriate for a delicate flower like myself.  I also formed a deep prejudice for husbands who forced their wives to mow the lawn.  Whenever I drove past a house with a married woman pushing that howling monster, I immediately made an assumption that the man in her life should have a restraining order against him for spousal abuse.  Did they not realize they were crushing the feminine spirit one blade at a time?

Then, I bought a house.

And Paul and I bought a lawn mower.

On a breezy, spring morning, empowered by homeownership and sideways glances from my neighbors, I decided to pull out our shiny mower and tackle our overgrown lawn.  I checked the oil level, poured gasoline into the tank and, with consuming dread, nearly tore my shoulder out of socket pulling that rip cord.  Then, something unexpected happened.  I traipsed across the lawn and looked back at the uniform sheen of the freshly cut greenery and felt a shot of OCD adrenaline flooding through my veins.  I wanted more, so I turned the machine around and cut another row, then another.  With each subsequent row, the thrill of mowing increased.  The pain of the occasional stick or rock that shot out at my exposed ankles was completely obscured by this addictive need for progression.  My arms quivered slightly, not from fatigue but anticipation of another yard behind the house that still needed trimmed.  Music blared in my ears, and I belted Train over the purr of my lawnmower.  The vibrations of the engine massaged my spirit, and I could feel my soul connecting with the earth as we became one entity.  What was happening?

When I rounded the willow tree and the miracle machine devoured the last tuft of overgrowth, I let go of the lever.  The mower hummed into silence, leaving me standing in a level kingdom of emerald carpet, grown graciously from my mother earth.  As I turned off my iPod, the soft twitters of birds singing my praise replaced the brassy voice of Adele.  I lovingly placed the mower back in the garden shed and walked up onto my deck to overlook my kingdom.  I stood there for what felt like seconds and hours morphed into a moment of pure bliss until the shouts of my children from inside the house woke me from my euphoria.

Since that day, I have not let my husband mow my lawn, lest he find it as addicting as I do.  I’ve become possessive of our crimson mower and territorial of my grass.  I confessed my feelings to my mother-in-law last week when she came up to babysit, and she shared a confession of her own:  She felt the same way.

I will never again pass judgment on some poor, unassuming man when I see his wife out mowing the law.  It could be that, like me, she is relishing in mowing meditation as she reconnects with herself for a few child-free moments.