The other week, my little brother, Logan, came down to visit and we all went to Kline's for dinner. Papa ordered his iced tea, but it didn't have a lemon in it so he asked the waitress: "Could you bring me some lemon? I really like a lot of lemon in my tea."
In response, the waitress came out with an entire bowl filled with lemons. I mean, there was probably a whole lemon in there. When she set it down on our table, Papa just laughed and said: "She obviously doesn't know how much these cost!" I could tell he was happy that he had all those lemons, but he was still embarrassed, so he made Grammy hide the lemon bowl at the back of the table behind the salt and pepper shakers. At the end of the meal, Grammy wrapped up the lemons in a napkin and took them home because: "They would just have to throw them away anyway!"
Recently, Logan and I have been taking turns mowing the grass for Papa since we live in hot and humid Missouri and it grows so darn fast. So, when we got home from our lemon experience at Kline's, we shoved Logan on the riding mower and sent him on his way. That is, after we made sure he complied with the lawn-mowing dress code.
Lawn mowing dress code:
-Big yellow ear muffs that amazingly block out all sound.
-Safety glasses. Well, Papa always tries to make us wear the safety glasses at least, but they are actually a pair of his old prescription glasses that none of us can see out of because they aren't our prescription. That doesn't stop Papa from telling us how protective they are, though. Logan really wishes that he could wear them because, who am I kidding, they are incredible. They are square and have really thick lenses. Unfortunately, lawn mower disasters would most likely happen if Grammy and I allowed him to put them on. When Papa tries to get us to wear them, Grammy just says: "Bill, they can't wear those! They can't see anything out of them! Just let them wear their sunglasses!"
-Old shoes. And if you don't have any old shoes, you have to wear their shoes. One time I was wearing my tennis shoes and Grammy walked up to me with her "gardening shoes" and told me I should wear her shoes so mine don't get grass stains.
-A hat. Grammy makes Logan wear this bucket hat and makes me wear this big, floppy straw hat.
-Sunscreen. And a lot of it. Sometimes Grammy will make you reapply halfway through. Though, it does take three hours to mow the lawn, so it's probably good that she makes us reapply.
-A water bottle or jug. Along with sunscreen patrol, Grammy is also the water police. Even though it apparently gives you cancer, Grammy still reuses her plastic water bottles, so when you mow the lawn, she'll give you a frozen bottle to hydrate yourself.
-If it is really sunny out, Grammy will also make you wear a long-sleeved shirt.
Now, growing up in the Brunner house means that everyone knows how to mow the lawn. That being said, when we mow the lawn at Grammy and Papa's, we start back at Lawn Mowing 101. The first time you mow, Papa will take you out and teach you about how a lawn mower works and show you all the recommended gears. Then he will stand outside and watch you mow the entire lawn, giving you hand signals to tell you where he wants you to go. Since the hand signals are quite confusing, I've developed a key:
If you see Papa:
-Wave his arm in a circle above his head, it means you should turn around. Most likely so that the mower doesn't blow the grass onto the sidewalk. Sometimes, however, waving his arm in a circle means to go around something. If unsure, just start doing one of these things and watch for his reaction. If he stops waving, then you did the right thing.
-Jab his finger in a certain direction, it means you should probably go that direction. Either that or he's telling you to avoid something in the yard. Like a bird house. Or a tree. If he stops pointing, then you did the right thing.
-Walk toward you, he has something to tell you. It is probably something like: "Make sure you don't hit Grammy's flowers" or "If you think you missed a spot, you can get it on the next round."
Sometimes, you'll look over at Papa and he'll be waving his arms around and you won't have any idea what he is trying to tell you. In this situation, I usually just keep mowing and hope I magically do what he's trying to get me to do. Usually, it isn't what he wanted me to do.
The first time you mow the lawn, Papa will watch you the entire time, hand signals included. The second time, he'll watch you part of the time, and after that, you're home free. I asked Papa why he always watches me mow and he said: "Because you're safer and won't go as fast when I watch you. Who knows how fast you'd turn that mower on if I went inside!"
One of the hardest parts about mowing is cutting the grass around Grammy's flower beds. She has four big flower beds around the yard filled with day-lilies and irises that have leaves that stick out over the grass making it difficult to avoid them. During the spring, Grammy and I would care for the flowers every day. I had no idea that flowers required so much care and attention because as a child, I hated gardening. Maybe it was because gardening meant pulling weeds. And not just pulling them, but pulling them so the entire root came out and if it didn't come out, it meant digging out the roots. Living with Grammy, however, has made me appreciate and even enjoy gardening. I never dreamed that I would find so much satisfaction in popping the dead tops off of irises or pulling weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk. Maybe this is just another sign of my impending retirement. Going out to check on the flowers, we always knew when Papa mowed the lawn, because aside from the shorter grass, there were chopped up flower leaves surrounding the flower beds. Grammy would pick up the severed leaves and say: "Look at these poor flowers! How hard is it to slow down around the flower beds!?"
Maybe the plants were looking sickly. Papa doesn't like sickly plants. One day I walked out to see him at his garden and he was digging up some of his tomato plants and planting new ones. When I asked him what in the world he was doing, he just told me that he was getting rid of the sickly ones. They didn't look very sickly to me. He also tried to get rid of one of Grammy's Hostas because it looked sickly. Grammy wouldn't let him, however, because Grammy is the kind of person who will nurse a sick plant for years in hopes of reviving it. Much to Grammy's satisfaction, the Hosta is blooming beautifully now.