Each year, in the spring, a day arrives when I realize I cannot wait one more minute to replace the storm door with a screen. I act spontaneously, forgetting that it will trigger an emotional domino effect that will drive me to put in all the screens—which can’t be done until the windows are washed. If I stopped to count the windows I’d have to take a nap before I began, so instead I treat each room as a discrete project. I retrieve the screens from the basement, wipe off the windowsills, wash the windows (inside and out), and finally, put up the screens. In this fashion, one by one, each room is readied for the new season.
Once the windows have been dealt with, I turn my attention to the yard. Andrew is the gardener. It is entirely thanks to him that we have such lovely landscaping. Other than mowing, I have only one more lawn-related job that generally begins after the forsythia bloom and the windows have been washed; dandelion removal.
Despite the fact that we have lovely gardens, the lawn itself is not in very good shape. There is an awful lot growing that can’t be called grass no matter how you stretch the definition. Given the woeful state of the lawn, one might find it a bit odd that I’m compelled to root out dandelions while ignoring other weed-like things. But it’s not odd at all. I do it because (to mangle an Arabic proverb) the enemy of my father is my enemy.
My father is a skilled and dedicated dandelion hunter. He goes after them with a vengeance and even though he tsk-tsks each time he sees one, the gleam in his eye belies his dismay. For a man who is constantly at war with crab grass and chinch bugs, dandelions offer him some respite, because he knows he can defeat them. When I was old enough to help, he taught me how to pry them out of the ground without destroying the lawn. If I pulled one up and left the root behind he would shake his head and I felt the weight of his disapproval.
You have to be vigilant to rid a lawn of dandelions. It is imperative that you get rid of them before their bright yellow flowers turn into puffballs of doom. The first foray into the yard to hunt dandelions is exhausting. No matter how good a job I did the year before, dozens of them pop up each spring. And while the initial pass is satisfying, it is always a disappointing surprise to look out the window the next day to see more of the bright yellow flowers dotting the lawn. Over the course of a week or two, though, the job is mostly done. I know that for the next few weeks I’ll spot one or two as I’m mowing, but they’ll be easily dispatched.
It is our misfortune that my father’s lawn never suffered from a mushroom problem. They are ugly, vaguely disgusting things without even a pretty color to redeem them. Andrew has studied the problem a bit, but has not yet found a way to defeat them. When mushroom season arrives, I do my best to ignore them. After all, my work is done. The dandelions are gone.