Lawnmower Beer

I’m having a writerly moment. Do y’all know what I mean? The voices start whispering and you’re compelled to the laptop, or the notebook computer, or your phone, or yesterday’s grocery receipt and a Comfort Suites pen from 1997. And my writerly moment, which I wish would be about world peace or National Child Abuse Prevention Month or even the lack of quality programming on television, is about… lawnmower beer.

Thanks, inspiration.

I took a long nap today. Without going into the backstory, Dane and I have been up between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. the last few days, and I’m again buried under the PTSD of mommyhood and all the other shit I never have time to do, and I’m tired. Anyway, Dane took a two-hour nap (unheard of! pigs flying! at some point, this child has to sleep!), and so did I, and I woke to the buzz-and-roar of a lawnmower.

The lawnmower: that’s another sound of my childhood. Dane and I will share that, I suspect, because we live in a similar neighborhood as I did as a child, and because he’s obsessed with lawn equipment. I remember laying on my bed and hearing the advance-and-retreat of the engine as my father rounded our house. The smell of gasoline, dangerous and pungent, and somehow also decadent – the same type of smell I would later associate with the first puff of a cigarette – permeated our garage. My father had an old cord-start mower, and the pull of that cord was the sound of Saturday, of summer, of long naps and mosquitoes buzzing and sleeping late and salt and sweat in the air.

Our childhoods have hearts and souls. I hear the lawnmower and I smell my father after a long day in the sun and remember how when he didn’t shave, he’d hold me down and rub his whiskers on my face. My mom would come inside with brown hands and brown shoulders and a floppy sun hat and the smell of earth and growing things on her hands. The air conditioner would cut the heat at the door and coming in and out was like walking through a wall of steam into a cool, clear cloud. And I would lay on the floor with Aunt Brookie and watch the fan blades turn above us and the water in our pool glisten through the sliding glass doors, and believe those days would never, ever end.

When the sun went down, my sister and I would run around barefoot in the grass while the cicadas sang and the tree frogs screamed and my parents sat on the deck – built by my father, always built by my father – and drank sweating beers. There were always people around when I was a kid, like a scene from Gatsby’s: my parents’ friends, neighbors, my friends or Aunt Brookie’s, our extended family, whoever. And the grass would be freshly cut and smelling like sweet, crisp summer and the voices would rise and fall as the heat undulated across our backyard until darkness took the edge off that summer-swamp madness and God blew a little relief down on us with the rising of the moon and the appearance of the stars.

Now instead of me laying on the floor, it’s Dane, and instead of my parents’ friends, I am the parent (who approved that, I wonder? don’t these people know I’m highly underqualified?), and instead of Bud Light or a Corona with lime, it’s Jon’s home brew or Shiner or my neighbor’s bloody mary. But the changes are minor. It may be Raleigh instead of Houston, or April instead of June, but I know that down in Texas, mom and dad are out on the deck with a cold beer, watching the fireflies light up the hill country night and remembering those days from our childhood, just like I’m living and reliving them here. So I guess those days never really do end. And thank God for that.

Smooch -s


70 thoughts on “Lawnmower Beer

  1. I was right there with you! Great writing!
    I’m usually struck at the most useless moment…in the shower, while i’m driving, at 2am, while i’m in the pool (I’m not in the pool at 2am, to be clear).

    • thanks! i will only partly shamefully admit i’ve been in the pool at 2 a.m., but we’d need to be drinking buddies to tell those stories… inspiration strikes me at either 2 am (of course) or while i’m changing a very, very dirty diaper. AWESOME.

  2. I love the imagery and I can smell, taste and hear everything about those Texas summers. Brings me back to my own childhood summers that I have no hope of capturing as well as you do yours!

    • thanks – he LOVES that mow-mow. and every time we even hear one in the distance now he puts his hands up to his ears and says MOW MOW? MOW MOW? i’m biased but i think he’s pretty damn cute…

  3. I remember falling asleep in the midwestern bucolic-ville town where I grew up – the neighbor chose summer evenings, after the sun had gone down and the children gone inside , to cut his grass. I would be trying to fall asleep, finding a cool spot on the sheet, feeling the fan waft across my body and hear the drone of the mower. it was weirdly comforting but now, looking back as a parent, i suppose the neighbor’s habits must have really pissed off my mom: 3 kids under the age of 7 she had, and this asshole chooses BEDTIME to start cutting the grass? But for me? the smell is, yes, one of childhood & nostalgia. My sister, when she first started talking, added “ing” to create all verbs: mowing the grass was “grassing.”
    lovely post, thank you for the memory…

    • you know, this totally cracks me up and at the same time i feel the same nostalgia you’re talking about from this story – because those are the random little things that stay with me! and i love “grassing” – dane makes everything into one syllable double words, i.e. mow-mow, roll-roll, go-go, etc. except, of course, for COOKOO (cookie), which just gets yelled maniacally across my house. so glad you loved it, i really enjoyed your post this week for yeah write, too!

  4. I just love the image of your mom in her floppy hat coming in from her garden with the scent of growing things and gardening on her – man if I could choose a way for my children to remember me that would be at the top.
    I too vividly recall childhood lawnmowers but can’t stand the smell of freshly cut grass – my dad accidentally chopped his toes off w. the lawnmower and to this day I can’t stand the smell of fresh cut grass!

    • you know, i’m so glad you like that because it’s one of my favorite memories, although i’m sure my mom will love the fact that i love it when she smells like dirt. but it all smells like ALIVE to me. and oh, i am so, so sorry about your dad’s toes, which would completely ruin all manner of lawn equipment for me forevermore. also, flip-flops.

    • thanks! i was happy to see you at yeahwrite this week. and i also spend a lot of time cussing (out loud) anyone who dares make a peep during nap time – to include beeps from my computer and my cell phone buzzing.

  5. thank you for reminding me of my own childhood texan summers, playing snakes in the gully with the neighbors and taking walks for ice cream. i live “up north” now, and while it’s nice, it’s not quite the same…

    • ha, snakes, i totally have a phobia from walking across an exposed pipe in a bayou and having a snake slither through – not across, but through – my toes. i live “back east” now and i completely know what you mean. texas forever, friend.

  6. That was a nice look at our current blog troubles mixed quite nicely with some reminiscing. I had quite a few of these same memories. Fireflies caught in a jar to make a lantern, then later set free, and that smell… Faintly BBQ, mainly heineken and dad sweat… Brings the memories back.


  7. This is gorgeous. I can see and smell and feel this. Our childhoods do have hearts and souls.
    I know what you mean about those writerly moments. This was a beautiful one.

    • thanks! i’m working on this whole being present business, but sometimes being present for me means being in a different place, at least mentally. that probably sounds totally crazy, sorry!

  8. We never really know where inspiration is going to come from do we? It must have been wonderful to go back to that time and remember each part! We never really know when we will be reminded of our past! -LV

  9. I loved this post! (Especially the part about who approved you being a parent–I have the same feeling!) You are sharing the same memories that made your childhood so great, and that means you ARE qualified.

    • thanks, and i’m so sorry – i missed your comment somehow! i loved your letter to jet blue, it was cracking funny. glad to find your blog at yeahwrite!

  10. I absolutely love those magical moments when past and present collide. I find it so uncanny when I am listening to my girls chatter and one of them says something or makes an observation that I made in my childhood. Absolutely amazing. Nice writing. I thoroughly enjoyed!

    • thanks! i love watching dane enjoy something i have such a strong attachment to – and i feel so happy to be able to give him a fraction of what my parents gave me. it’s awesome!

  11. Oh, I loooved this! Your words were perfectly placed and really conjured up memories of my own childhood. I sometimes have those moments when I suddenly realize I’M THE MOM; I wonder if that ever stops feeling so strange. It’s even stranger when I get that feeling while I’m out with my kids and my mom, and she keeps calling my daughter by my name. 🙂

    • it’s only been a year and a half for me, but i have yet to reconcile how completely natural and totally strange it is for me to realize: holy crap, i’m the mom? glad it’s not just me and bwahahahaha your mom cracks me up. because i keep calling dane my husband’s name (wtf, for real?).

  12. Reminds me of all the little “nothing” memories my kids are storing up…like this, these days and feelings and senses are what I treasure most from my childhood too.

  13. This is such a beautifully written picture of your childhood, and I love how you’ve looped it back to the present. Awesome job.

    • ha! my dad has totally switched over to the riding lawnmower now… new memories of him with his straw hat on, mowing their 1/4 acre lawn on a tractor… 🙂

    • the sound of cicadas and tree frogs will forever be etched into my memory – not sure if you live in the south but i’m pretty sure everyone who’s lived south of richmond knows that sound! glad you enjoyed it.

  14. What an awesome memory story! It reminds me of a quintessential childhood replete with firefly-laterns…things I never knew. I love this 🙂 And that closing picture is perfect 🙂

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