As I mowed the grass today, I thought about the man who lived on my street when I was about 8 years old. His grass was perfectly manicured – every inch of it the same height and color, the most beautiful color of green there is.
He was always telling us kids not to walk in his grass. If one of our balls happened to bounce that way, we crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t make it all the way into his yard. And if it did, we would only get it back if he happened to be in a good mood. As lovely as his hard work was, he wasn’t a very happy man.
In my backyard today, there have been hours of happiness. When my kids aren’t out there, the good times can still be felt in the presence of patches where grass has been worn away.
For years, my sons have pitched balls to each other in the same spot. The batter’s box patch slowly got wider and wider as they decided they wanted to try switch-hitting.
The pitching mound patch stretched longer and longer as they got older and kept backing up to throw harder.
Since our driveway is a bit too sloped to play basketball, we put a hoop in our backyard. My husband who played in high school enjoys playing PIG and Around the World with the boys, and the patches of dirt show where they stand as they challenge each other. Between work and his MBA program and home projects, it’s a way for him to relax and enjoy time with them.
Our swing set has had lots of love, evident by the brown spots under each swing – the red one was just recently hung, so it still has a layer of grass beneath it. I watched my daughter – our youngest – struggle to pump her legs like her brothers, and when she accomplished her feat, we all clapped for her. Now she can run outside when she wants to, and from my kitchen window, I watch her swing happily as I cook (or put a frozen pizza in the oven).
I wish I could go back and tell that man on my old street that a bad spot in his grass wouldn’t have been so ugly. He may have heard more laughter, felt more joy, and lived a happier life.
There are days when I drive by a beautiful house with a flawless lawn, and I wonder how I could get mine to look that way. But if it means telling my kids that they can’t learn and play and accomplish new feats on the grass, I don’t want it.
Because dirt patches are not so ugly. In fact, they’re what makes my yard beautiful.