Solomon Jones: For lawn lover, anger springs eternal

Posted: February 27, 2013

FEBRUARY is almost over, and winter will soon come to an end.

Oh, sure, March might hit us with another cold day or two. We might even get a little snow. But let's be honest: February is winter's last hurrah, and when its dark frigid nights slip away, the cold will be replaced by something even worse: spring.

Why do I prefer the icy-gray winter to the warm, bursting colors of spring? The answer is quite simple, really. During the winter, people stay in their houses. When spring arrives, people come out. And so do my allergies.

My eyes become watery and itchy. I sneeze every five seconds. My head feels like it's going to explode. It's not because I'm allergic to pollen. It's because I'm allergic to people and the stupid things they do when it gets warm.

Maybe I could deal with it if the stupidity wasn't squarely aimed at me, but I've come to believe that when spring arrives, my body sends out some sort of beacon that draws idiots to my location, whatever that location might be.

They meet me at the traffic light while my daughter's in my car, and blast lyrics that would shame Richard Pryor. They get in the supermarket express line and count coupons as my ice cream melts. They sit near me in the theater at a movie I've been waiting to see and shout "Bingo!" into their cellphone.

As bad as those public situations can be, I can get away from them fairly easily. It's a whole different ball of wax when springtime stupidity shows up at my home.

The driveway behind my house is a perfect example. Because the space is unlit, couples involved in illicit nighttime activities believe my driveway is Inspiration Point. Unfortunately for them, I still think it's my driveway, so I call the cops. But on days when I really feel creative, I brush my teeth until I appear to be foaming at the mouth. Then I run up to their car windows yelling, "Go, Flyers!"

Once they've seen a crazed black man shouting hockey slogans in the dark, they generally don't come back.

I don't want to be that guy, though. I want to be normal. I want to be happy. However, people's springtime behavior has stolen my joy. And while I hate to say it in such a public way, my children have been among the main culprits, because they committed the biggest springtime sin of all. They made me stop loving my lawn.

Not so long ago, I would spend the first few weeks of spring planting, fertilizing, watering and mowing. My grass was the best on the block, maybe even the best in the neighborhood. My lawn looked so good that I was the guy they were talking about when they said, "The grass is always greener on the other side."

I was, to put it bluntly, a legend.

Then the kids came along.

They did little things at first, like running across the lawn while my grass seedlings were still trying to take root. That would kill some of the grass, but not enough to make a major difference. Later, they would ride their bikes across the lawn. Again, I might see a skid mark or two, but most of my grass still survived.

Finally, the kids donned roller skates, and when they couldn't stop effectively on the sidewalk - you guessed it, they stopped on my lawn.

At that point, whatever love I had left for spring was snatched away in a blur of dead grass and skid marks. The season I loved most as a child became a symbol of all that was wrong in the world. Spring, with its warm days, new life, and budding leaves, was just another painful reminder of everything that had been taken from me.

Because my children and their friends bike and skate my lawn into a muddy, weed-covered mess, I have become Mr. Wilson from "Dennis the Menace" - a bald and bitter old man who wants nothing more than to yell, "Get off my lawn!" to all the neighborhood kids.

I didn't want to turn out this way. I wanted to be a nice guy. But as February gives way to March, I guess I have to accept it. So I'll pull up my pants, buy some horn-rimmed glasses, don a sweater and sensible shoes, and wait for the next catastrophe.


Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.

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