Featured Review on this writing by randyman

(audio reading available)
the truth about the struggles of buying your first home in the burbs in the 80's

Created: April 07,2023

The Blushing Lawnmower

When starting adult life, I started out with a small checking account and a car with almost a hundred thousand miles. It was the 70's, and we were in love. My lady acquired an apartment in an OK part of Philadelphia called Germantown. She had fought with her folks, that claimed her skirts were too short; thus, we needed a place to live. We started off by buying a few pieces of second-hand furniture at Goodwill. I remember our prized possession was a 5 piece veneer Tudor table with four chairs. It was not too long after that I quit college and moved in.
Fast forward four years, we were freshly married with a little family,  able to mortgage a cheap desperate fix-er-upper house in suburbia New Jersey. Within hours of the closing, she was wiping down the kitchen, and I was out in the backyard admiring "my property."
I took my new shiny tiny bucket and spade and filled it with "Jersey soil," which meant 80% sand. I walked into her kitchen and dumped it on the freshly refinished, famed Tudor kitchen table. "What the F**** are you doing" she loudly exclaimed.
"I am exerting my male dominance over my territory. For the first time in my life, I can go out, dig holes, and dump dirt on the kitchen table. Do you know why I can do that? Because for the first time in my life, I do not answer to a landlord and his rules or to anybody else. I can do whatever I want because this is my dirt!" I shook my hand full of dirt and smiled broadly.
She just shook her head like I was crazy and went back to scrubbing the inside of kitchen cabinets within an inch of its life.
That first week I went shopping for a lawnmower. With almost no money, I was down to buying a second-hand mower from a small engine mechanic who had "the best selection of nearly new machines for your home." Looking over his inventory, I fell in love with a Simplicity five-horsepower riding mower with an incredible 32-inch mowing width and five manual cutting heights. But it cost $200. All I could do was drool. Instead, I bought a "cream puff "Sears Briggs and Stratton 2.5 horsepower 4 cycle push mower with direct drive on the handle and seven settings and 14-inch mowing width on three-inch wheels for $40. And put the Simplicity on my calendar wish list.
That same first weekend, all pumped up, I only managed to cut only half of the entire lawn before collapsing on the couch swilling a gallon of ice water. The burbs were hard work. I broke the yard into 3 equal segments after that and did one part each weekend day.
The first year passed quickly, and by the end, we were official members of the suburban society; which meant I was recognized as not a stranger at the hardware store and my wife a standing member of the local Shoprite grocery store with full rights to coupon clipping advisements.
By the following spring, I had also earned the neighboring men's valor and respect by successfully navigating the tradition of fix-er-upper house repair. This meant I was well on the way to replacing all the extension cords that ran from fuse boxes to wall outlets with genuine Romex cable and removing the scary fire hose that was used to connect the not-matching toilet around the tight dark corners of the basement to the town's sewer system with all new authentic cast iron extensions.
I still had a lot to do in the coming years. I would need to replace the aluminum wiring from the late 50s. Replace and expand the matching circuit panel to no longer spark or need aluminum grease to keep connections working. Replace windows that were just plates of glass framed in the walls. Pull up the avocado carpet and the Masonite floor of the dining room and replace them with actual wood flooring. Redo the roof with a new rubber roof etc.
But the project that beat me the most was to come in the spring of the third year. The grass lawns suddenly turn green on the first week of spring in south New Jersey. There is almost a starting gun firing off as you hear all the lawnmowers startup. Within minutes you smell the gas exhausts, and a few hours after, the wonderful smell of fresh-cut lawns of the suburbs that pridefully distinguishes the burbs from the smog of cities.
I raced to the garage and almost pulled out my arm, trying to get the cream-colored Sears 2.5 horse-powered self-propelled direct drive with a 14-inch cut to go. Five hours later, I had cut only a tiny patch. The machine did not like to go. Later that week, leaning over the fence, I discussed my frustration with my good neighbor, who always had good advice. Armed with a new spark plug, filters, and points, I was cocky and sure I was ready for the weekend. I even tried it out, and it started right up.
But as soon as it hit the grass, it choked down and sputtered. I swore at the machine, hoping to reach its sensible mechanical heart. I explained its purpose and that it was failing us. I explained that we had an entire summer of working under our belt and that we had agreed that it would stop whining and perform its job.
 Going back to the neighbor over the fence, I cried about my lacking. He said toughen up; the lawnmower is the bane of all suburban men. It is a long tradition, and I must not waver.
Pushing back my sobs and tears with a stiff upper lip, I approached the lawnmower the following evening, armed with fresh oil and the best gas in town. I lectured it, saying, "I know all your quirks, and if you do not perform this weekend, I might be forced to sacrifice you to the junkyard gods. Do you know who they are? They are large monsters who chew lawnmowers like you into scrap and spit out shards of metal to be melted down." The wife watched out the window in amusement as she heard me
The next weekend came, and I inspected the lawn and declared war. I pointed out where the battle lines between man and his machine were drawn. I prayed to the suburban gods. The grass was now so high I was an embarrassment to the street, and knew I would have to set the wheels on the highest setting.
I prepared for the apocalyptic event by talking sweetly to my cream-colored Sears Briggs and Stratton 2.5-horsepower 4-cycle push mower with direct drive on the handle. The wife smiled with amusement and waved, wishing me good luck.
Five hours later, the lawnmower was back in the garage, with me cursing words I rarely throw. The wife came out and looked around. “Where is your cream-colored Sears Briggs and Stratton 2.5-horsepower 4-cycle push mower with direct drive on the handle?” She looked around to where it usually sat. A bright scarlet red lawnmower sat that looked unusually like the old Sears mower. She stared at it, giggled, and asked what had happened.
I looked at her with red anger still burning in my eyes. "That lawnmower has lived its last day! I tried everything, and I gave up. So I spray-painted it with the brightest scarlet red I could find to embarrass it and paraded it up and down the lawn in front of all the other lawnmowers and neighbors. Tomorrow it goes to the junkyard, and I am springing the bucks to get that real riding mower. I thought she was going to hurt herself as she laughed.

Submitted: August 22, 2022

© Copyright 2023 thor Foss. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:



Law'n order, the battle never ends... Good story!

Mon, August 22nd, 2022 10:25pm


Thank you for reading this Houdini!
I am emotional. I write when I feel I am going to explode. It is my release. This was humor after exploding. Sometimes we explode, and then we look at ourselves and can laugh. I am glad you shared you enjoyed seeing this in ourselves.

Thu, September 1st, 2022 7:25am


And that reminds me of my house in Jersey. And that I used to own. The boxwood hedges with the poison oak intertwined. Going outside at 6 AM before the kids woke up, to trim those hedges. My lawnmower was good it had a key start worked great. Still I kind of miss those days. Living in the desert now. Loved your story. I still miss ShopRite.

Sun, September 11th, 2022 11:54pm


Lol, Yes, the simpler ol days in burbia NJ. I miss them too. Thanks for reading this.

Sat, September 24th, 2022 4:56pm


Always enjoy new homeowner stories especially those associated with ICE's. Battery electric everything can't come soon enough.

Sat, March 11th, 2023 5:01pm

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