Homeowners know it well. At least, they do in the moist and temperate Northeastern United States. Each of us who opts for the privacy, space, and comfort of a single-family home must cope with it. The more spacious your domain, the more burdensome it is.
No, it’s not the traffic, nor the property taxes, nor the door-to-door solicitors. These are all relatively minor incursions upon the serenity of the suburban homeowner. It’s something that originally appears quite innocuous…easily managed…really, no trouble at all. And how appalled the new homeowner is when he discovers the terrible truth about it.
It’s the lawn.
For you see, a single-family detached home will always be clustered with other single-family detached homes. Each of them will have a lawn. And though it defies my ability to penetrate, suburban homeowners can get very competitive about their lawns. Worse, they can be downright hostile toward a neighbor whose lawn is viewed as being “not up to community standards.”
We spend a lot on our lawns. A lot of time. A lot of money. A lot of effort. And if your expenditures on those things fail to yield results the local pecksniffs approve, you can be in for a world of hurt.
I’m one of the disapproved ones. I can’t produce a decent lawn. I’ve tried everything: advanced seed formulations, special fertilizers and growth mixtures, chemical soil quality enhancers, a mechanized sprinkler system, everything but waving a dead chicken over it. Nothing helps.
I asked my pastor if there’s a Patron Saint of Lawns to whom I might address my morning prayers. He said he’d get back to me. That was three years ago. I’m still waiting.
It doesn’t help that I’ve got three huge dogs. They’re not in the least concerned about the lawn. That’s my responsibility. As they see it, once they’ve spread their, ah, products around it as liberally as possible, they’ve done their bit.
This is the ball and chain of the suburbs. It’s a life sentence of bondage to unruly, totally uncooperative vegetation, irregularly stippled with weeds, dandelions, ant hills, mole holes, big BLEEP!ing rocks, and bottles, cans, and assorted detritus tossed over the fence by the teenagers next door, who seem to throw parties every weekend.
When I recently entertained the possibility of relocating, among my priorities for our new abode was no lawn. I wanted a place with a lot so densely populated and overshadowed by huge leafy trees that nothing could grow between them. Failing that, I wanted a back yard, at least, that’s wholly taken up by tennis courts. I wanted the lawn, if any, to be small enough to cut with a cuticle scissors. I looked, and looked, but there was nothing satisfactory in the areas I targeted.
Then just this morning, I stumbled upon the following JPG:
Sadly, I have no idea where that eyot-with-a-house-on-it is, or I’d make an offer. Hell, after the lawn-labors I’ve gone through already this spring, I’d throw in my firstborn and my best pocketknife. But the picture gives no clue about where it was taken.
Yes, I’d have to get a boat, which is its own kettle of perpetual nuisances, but look! Perfect privacy and no lawn! It’s the fulfillment of my dearest dream. (Among other things, imagine a town or county inspector trying to harass the owner of that place for a building code violation.)
I showed it to the C.S.O., of course. She shrugged and passed it back. I didn’t understand her indifference. “Well, what do you think?” I said before walking away. “Do you find it at all appealing?”
“I suppose the privacy would be nice,” she said, “but I doubt I’d be happy there.”
That set me back. You doubt YOU’D be happy there? What about your beloved, worn-down husband?! But I kept my composure and asked, quite calmly, “Why not?”
She shrugged again. “No lawn.”
And I alone am escaped to tell thee.