Let me begin by saying that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a country girl. Yes, I am from Texas, born and raised in the Lone Star State, with no plans to ever live elsewhere. I am a first generation American, child of an immigrant on my mother’s side (insert shout out to my Armenian peeps here. No, we are not related to the Kardashians. Or Cher – and now many of you now posses knowledge of Cher’s lineage that you may not have had before. You’re welcome). My dad is from California. How they ended up together and in Texas, of all places, is an incredible story, quite amazing, actually. However, it has nothing to do with today’s anecdote, so we’ll skip that part for now.
The point of that detour over to my heritage is to clarify a few things:
1) I grew up in a pretty cultured setting as far as my home life, despite our geographic location of a smallish town in West/Central Texas.
2) My roots are very Old World – my grandmother lived with us for the entirety of my childhood (bless my daddy’s heart) up until we lost her last month. Multi-generational is a way of life, not just a concept.
3) I learned from-scratch cooking of the full gamut of Armenian and Middle Eastern food from a very young age. I never even tasted Ranch dressing until Junior High.
4) Both my mother and grandmother speak five languages, which makes me a massive underachiever, even though I speak two. It also, unfortunately, did not stop me from acquiring a Texas accent. Unfair, I know.
5) I have incredibly eclectic taste in music, literature and art.
6) I don’t do yard work.
Got you there, didn’t I? Let me explain. Part of being raised by someone like my mother, who is from a very traditional, very old family and culture, means that gender roles tend to be more defined than in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Don’t get me wrong – the two women who raised me and influenced my life in phenomenal ways are shining examples of brilliance, talent, innovation, hard work, courage and fierce love. They encouraged me to grow and push boundaries and become my absolute best at every turn, whether I felt like it or not (sometimes with kindness and gentle words, other times in more forceful ways). So don’t think I received coddling or any thoughts of being “just a girl”.
No one ever told me I couldn’t push a mower or run a weed eater. It just wasn’t expected. My brother and dad had that chore. Fine with me – it’s really hot in Texas. No argument here. (FYI: I also don’t change flat tires or kill scorpions, but those are other issues).
So, when my sweet husband (who is the child of a single mom who did do yard work) asked me to pitch in and help speed the mowing process along a few weeks ago, I cheerfully (ok, not cheerfully, but with less attitude than you might think) agreed. His reasoning was that we are a team, and after all, he helps put away dishes and laundry, so fair’s fair. Not wanting to squash the whole help-me-out-with-the-inside-stuff motivated me to plaster a pleasant look on my face and be agreeable.
Plus, we have a riding lawn mower, so how hard can this be? He was the one with the weed whacker. That did not look fun at all.
After listening intently to all the instructions on running the lovely green and yellow machine on which I perched, and then listening to them again because I got distracted by a wasp halfway through the first explanation and couldn’t focus until I watched it fly across the yard and out of sight, I was ready to go. Don’t judge. I have a phobia.
I made it around once before the Bug came tearing across the lawn waving and begging to ride in my lap and could I drive her around “like Daddy does”. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to drive a riding mower with a squirming three-year-old in your lap? Especially when you have all of five minutes of experience driving said mower? Add to that the fact that she doesn’t actually sit. She slid all over the place. She leaned to one side or the other. She climbed – on the steering wheel, on my lap, up to my shoulders until she was leaning halfway down my back. Her contortions were unreal – and all because she had to wave at every car that went by. It was like a compulsion. She was going to welcome every person coming into or out of our neighborhood if it killed us both. As frustrating as it was, all I could do was laugh. That girl was born to wave at crowds from a float in a sparkly gown with a tiara on her head. She’s already practicing. And you know the best part? They all waved back. Every single driver or passenger of every vehicle that passed by had a hand up and amused expression on his or her face, possibly at my pitiful driving skills, but more likely at the adorable Fair-Queen-in-training.. And every time someone waved back, her smile was like the sun.
Eventually, the novelty of riding in circles wore off, traffic died down, and my little partner got bored. She wiggled around, stared straight into my face with her big brown eyes and informed me she was ready to get off. The ride was no longer fun, she was tired and thirsty and dirty and it was time to be done. Period. As I lowered her to the sidewalk, I had the immature thought that I, too, was bored and dirty and thirsty, but someone had to finish the job. Since she’s three, that must be me. Darn.
I continued my circular journey, contemplating its analogy to life. Remember when we could just stop the ride once it was no longer fun? When we had more choices as to when we called it quits and headed in for rest and refreshment? When driving around in circles, going around and around to finish the job wasn’t a way of life? How many times do I look up and think, “I want off. I want to be done with this”, but I keep going because I don’t have a choice? Or at least, it doesn’t feel like I do. It feels like I’m stuck, trudging through an endless list of have-to’s and honey-do’s (mommy-do’s, work tasks, volunteer jobs, house necessities, etc.). The mire gets bigger and deeper, until I can’t see a way out at all. So I stop trying to find one, tread water, and allow myself to believe this is as good as it gets.
Even though it’s not. Because the One who created me, who planned my very existence, as well as that of the world He created for me, didn’t do all of that just so that His beloved could spin in circles or run in place and live a life of frustrated exhaustion. His plan for me, and for all of His children, is to live a life of purpose and forward motion and joy. To find wonder in the tasks set before us, and to smile and wave at each other as we pass by, letting those around us see the Son shining in our faces and in our hearts.
As I rounded the last turn of my mowing journey, contemplating these thoughts and changing my point of view, I glanced toward the sidewalk in front of our house. There she stood, my miniature Parade Princess, waving her little arm as hard as she could with her hand held high and her smile beaming across the yard.
“Good job, Mommy!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down, “You’re doing so great!”. She continued cheering, interchanging thumbs up and blown kisses as I drove my final lap.
Never mind that it took me three times as long to complete the job as it does her daddy. Never mind that I looked like a chimney sweep from all of the dust and dirt that covered every inch of me. Never mind that there were patches of grass left between my routes because I can’t perform tight enough turns. Her pride and enthusiasm knew no bounds.
As I carried her into the house so we could both clean up, my heart was lighter and more full than it had been a few hours earlier. While I can’t say that I actually enjoyed the landscaping experience, I can say I felt a sense of satisfaction at a job done well (ok, decently). And at the applause of an enthusiastic supporter. And at finishing a task.
Too often, I’m so busy looking at the next item on my list, that I don’t take time to celebrate checking off the one I completed. I forget to get off the mower/roller coaster/whatever analogy you prefer and relax, for however long I can, while basking in the joy of a job well done.
I am determined to do so more often. I am determined to encourage those around me to do so as well, all the while cheering them along. And I am determined to make sure my sons figure out this mowing thing. Old World roots run deep for a reason.
Solidarity, sisters. Everybody loves a parade.