Debby Waldman's Blog

Taking the Fun out of Having Lawns

Taking the Fun out of Having Lawns
June 3, 2006
Edmonton Journal

When we had new carpet installed in our upstairs hall last year I was shocked at how dingy the bedroom carpets looked in comparison, and I couldn’t help compare because the new Berber ended where the old stuff began, at the bedroom doors.
“You could put new carpet in all the bedrooms,” the carpet man said helpfully. When I pointed out that new carpet wasn’t in our budget, he came up with another solution: “Keep the doors closed.”
I thought about that the other day, when I was talking to a friend about lawns. She and her husband have a lovely garden and a normal lawn, which is to say, every once in a while a dandelion pops up amongst the grass and the clover. Her neighbors, on the other hand, have lush carpets of nothing but vibrant green which is heavily attended to, pampered and manicured, the lawn equivalent of a Hollywood starlet during awards season.
“All I can say is, I’m glad there’s a hedge between our house and theirs,” she said.
I know how she feels. Across the street from us lives a family with an underground sprinkler system and a lawn that, if it were a man’s head, would be that of Grey’s Anatomy actor Patrick Dempsey on a day when the on-set hair stylist was at the top of his craft.
Every time I step out the front door or gaze out our living room picture window I feel as if I’ve been transported to a House and Garden photo shoot. Not only is my neighbors’ lawn thick and healthy looking, it’s so uniform it looks as if just arrived from the sod factory.
The sad thing is, I used to love looking at that lawn. I appreciated its beauty –  until my husband began comparing it to ours. “Look at that,” he said, taking a break from crawling about on his knees, armed with a fork-like device to extract dandelions from what I used to think of as our perfectly acceptable lawn.
“At what?” I asked.
“This lawn is a mess.” He pointed to a brown spot where, presumably, grass once grew. I’d never noticed it. “Look at that.” He pointed to anther bald spot that hadn’t stood out until that very minute.
“The kids can’t play out here anymore,” he said. “At least not for a few weeks, until the grass grows back.”
“But they love playing out here,” I reminded him. “And there’s an obesity epidemic, and it’s healthier for them to be outside playing than inside on the couch, watching cartoons.”
“The lawn is a disaster,” he said. “If they play on it, it’s going to get worse. It just needs a rest.”
“But it’s a lawn,” I said. “It’s supposed to be played on.”
“It’s supposed to look nice,” he retorted.
The kids continued playing on the lawn until the weather turned after a week and the temperature plummeted and rain began to fall. I hoped it would make a difference in the lawn, but like a man whose shining scalp is a billboard for his healthy testosterone levels, the bald patches on our lawn weren’t going to be rejuvenated without chemical help.
“We need to have the lawn aerated,” Dave announced. “And fertilized.”
“But fertilizer is full of chemicals,” I said. “Chemicals can make you sick.”
In my haste to defend our borders, I’d forgotten a cardinal rule of debating: never argue chemicals with someone who has an Ivy League Ph.D. in the subject.
The lawn was aerated, and a few days later it was fertilized, and the bald patches are still there and the rest of the grass is merely longer and in desperate need of a good mowing. Meanwhile, my neighbor just informed me that her lawn is to be featured in a real estate commercial about the importance of an impeccable façade in getting a good price for your home.
And so I’ve decided to take a tip from the carpet man: I’m going to keep the curtains closed and use the back door – at least until the grass grows back.

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