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Just the other day I looked out the window at my lawn where the first tough, scrappy blades of green grass were beginning to push through the brown patches. I suddenly realized how much I missed the kids. Oh, the wife and I miss our three grown children all the time and talk to them often. But come springtime, where my lawn is concerned, I realize that I miss them even more than usual.
When we had three growing, active kids living around here, I could blame my hard-scrabble lawn on them. They all had friends, of course and the whole pack of them had bikes and dogs and all those bikes and dogs seemed to be constantly rolling and running across the bleak landscape where something like a lawn might have been. In summer we'd have to have at least one plastic pool in the yard for those hot days when we couldn't get to our camp. There were countless baseball games and come fall, football. In winter, there were all those sleds.
Each spring, after the snow finally melted, I'd look out the window at the desolate stretch of dirt that ran around our house, and I'd dream of the lush, green lawn I'd have as soon as the kids were grown.
Occasionally as I lay in my hammock listening to the Red Sox and sipping lemonade I'd think about training the kids to fertilize, mow and trim the lawn. But I'd soon reconsider. Since we had no lawn to fertilize or mow in the first place, and it would take at least two months of constant fussing to get one, and once we had a designer lawn, the kids would no longer have a place to play. So, the idea was dismissed and I continue listening to the ball game.
"Just wait until the kids are grown," I'd say to myself. "What a beautiful lawn I’m going to have then,” I’d dream.
My best excuse for things like genteel poverty, was the kids. Kids had to eat and all that food cost money. Kids needed clothes and school supplies and pets and orthodontists and music lessons and trips to Disney World. And every one of those necessities cost money - money that sad childless couples squander on scuba diving from their yacht in the Caribbean.
Oh, sure, there were expenses back then that, like any father, I'd question.
I'd walk into the bathroom after one of the kids had just taken a shower, be overcome by the steam and wonder aloud why it took almost 40 minutes and hundreds of gallons of hot water to wash a 100 pound body when I could thoroughly clean one twice as large in under 10 minutes.
Every week our kids got something like $5 each for an allowance. But I couldn't hand over that kind of money to a kid without giving the required father's lecture on the value of money. "When I was your age I got 25 cents a week and with that I had to buy all my clothes, school lunches and books and take what was left over and put it in the bank for college.”
There were the times I'd come home and find the whole house lit up like a Christmas tree. I'd then give the, "Do you think I'm made of money?” speech.
I won't even go into the business about the empty ice cube trays. I'm sure I filled thousands of ice cube trays over the years and yet every time I opened the freezer compartment for a few ice cubes the trays were always empty.
Well, the kids are grown and gone and with them all my good excuses.
Now that those 40-minute showers are over we are a bit more prosperous, but we still have too many lights on, the ice trays are still empty and my pathetic excuse for a lawn remains.
And there's no one around to blame but me and Mother.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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