I believe that mowing the lawn is my life. Maybe I’d better explain. “Taking care of the lawn,” my father always said, “is like taking care of your life. Finishing a job well done soothes the soul.”
As I was crouched low putting gas in a tank that was over half full, he elaborated, as if I’d asked him to. I was fourteen and didn’t ask, but that never slowed down Dad.
“First, never start anything without being prepared. You gotta have a full tank of gas. Even if gas is in the mower, top it off so you can finish without stopping.” Never one to waste a soapbox, he related mowing to life every chance he got. “Maintain the mower so it runs like a charm.” Without breaking stride, he spit his tobacco juice into a well-positioned beer can whose top had been removed with sharp tin snips. “A clean mower will run with little to slow `er down.”
“Don’t mow crooked,” Dad always said. “Mow straight and be efficient. Mow with a purpose, no need to be fancy and try to be something you’re not.” I guess, in his own way, my dad was quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” I got it when Polonius said it, but it took me a while to get that my dad was saying the exact same thing.
Although it took me some time to relate this to my life, my dad’s philosophy finally makes sense. Maintaining healthy relationships with the people around us is like mowing the lawn. I have remained happily married and in love with the same woman for more than twenty years. We keep the blades clean by being open and honest, and by topping off each other’s tank. It takes patience and time, but I believe in keeping that particular mower clean and running well.
My dad also constantly lectured my little brother and me about cleaning our fingernails every time we went someplace. I guess it was like keeping the edges of the lawn neat and trimmed. “Don’t forget to trim the edges of the yard. I don’t want people to think I neglect what’s mine,” he would yell as he spit tobacco. Whenever we headed to the truck to go into town, he would ask to see our fingernails. “Hold on there, let me see those fingernails. They better be clean.” My brother and I always had dirty fingernails. We grew up on a farm and lived outside. If our nails didn’t pass his inspection, he reached in his pocket and retrieved his little Buck pocketknife, handed it to me, and said, “Clean those fingernails. First impressions is everything,” as he spit another bull’s-eye of tobacco juice.
Now, as an adult, I finally understand. I believe that first impressions are a portrait of who we are and what we can accomplish when we care for the things given to us. I believe in taking care of the things in my life that are important to me.
So, my fingernails are clean. I think I’ll go mow my lawn.