Nancy’s heart broke as she looked down at the crestfallen face of her youngest son. For two days the eleven-year-old had worked tirelessly in the family’s front and backyard, mowing the grass, trimming the hedges, raking and tidying up Nancy’s prized rose garden, all in the hopes of winning the neighborhoods’ award for “Best Yard of the Month”. Now, as they watched the homeowners association board members present the award to their neighbors across the street- again, Nancy tried to bolster her son, “There’s always next month, Toby. And I have some great ideas for sprucing up our border plants; I think they could really put us over the top the next go round”. Toby just nodded mechanically, not really listening.
Nancy hated seeing him like this. He had attacked the yard with such gusto, he didn’t doubt for a minute he would win. The whole thing had started last month as they walked their golden lab, Sally through the neighborhood and Nancy pointed out their neighbors “Best Yard of the Month” sign standing proudly in the front of their yard. She had commented, in passing really, how she would like, just once to win the award. Toby had frowned in confusion and asked why. “Oh honey,” she had replied, “I used to love working in the yard, getting my hands dirty and watching as my roses would grow and bloom. But ever since your father passed, I just haven’t had the time”. Seeing her son’s face fall a little, Nancy had tried to laugh it off at the time. But two weeks later, when he asked about the hedge trimmers and where the potting soil was, she knew he had taken her remark to heart.
Thinking that getting his hands a little dirty working in the yard could be good for him, Nancy had encouraged his tenacious spirit and helped him to get started. They pulled up all of the skunk vine in the backyard together, laughing at how it turned their hands green and the stink of it seemed to linger even after washing several times. Nancy lifted her hand and sniffed, smiling at the stinky plants’ faint odor, still detectable under her fingernails. The smile soon faded though, as she thought about how desperately Toby had wanted to win, she knew he had done it for her- to make her happy.
“Ma, I’m just gonna go to bed, I think,” Toby said quietly as he headed back inside.
“Ok, sweetie. I’m proud of you, you did a wonderful job,” Nancy replied, hoping he could hear the love she poured into the words. As the front door closed, she turned back to face the ‘award’ sign in her neighbors’ yard, and for the first time in her 36 years, she contemplated theft. Knowing she would never do something so silly, Nancy began to walk up the driveway towards her front door as an idea popped into her head. Turning back towards the sign again, a sly grin tugged at the corner of her mouth and she hurried inside.
The next morning, Nancy, usually an early riser, took her time coming down from her room.
“Mom! Mom! Come see this! Mom!” Toby’s excited voice carried up the stairs to her room and she raced to the backyard where her son was jumping up and down and pointing excitedly at something out of view.
“What is it, Toby? What’s the matter?” she asked as she gathered her think black hair into a ponytail.
“Mom, you’re not going to believe it! We won! They gave us “Best Backyard of the Month” award! Look!” he said as he pulled her into the yard.
Sure enough, there stood a similar sign to the one their neighbor’s yard, right between the two lime trees. In bold green letters it announced to all who might travel through their backyard: “Best Backyard of the Month” sponsored by Daylight Realty.
“See Toby! All that work and it paid off. I knew they couldn’t pass us up!” Nancy hugged her precious son who was still trying to jump up and down.
“This is awesome! Mom, next month, I’m going to win the whole thing. I better get planning!” and with that he sprinted back inside to start looking up plants on the family computer.
Smiling after him, Nancy walked back inside and as she reached to pull the French doors shut she paused just long enough to rub a dab of green paint off of one of her knuckles.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: It was another back-breaking afternoon of yard work for us today. Man, does that ever get easier? While Andy mowed the lawn, I decided I would finally attack the skunk vine that has taken over my back yard- growing two feet a day all over my shrubs and border plants. That vine is one nasty customer, let me tell you. It is everywhere and boy, does it reek. Well, after about an hour of my efforts I finally made a dent in it… on to the front yard!
TWO: While we worked away in the yard for the majority of the afternoon, Andy and I definitely decided our efforts deserved some kind of recognition, like, say Yard of the Month (ok, so I’ve been coveting the award ever since my next door neighbor won it this month. Unfortunately, without replacing all of the sod, uprooting several trees and planting some nicer plants and shrubs (basically starting from scratch) I doubt we’ll ever be considered for that hallowed honor. I joked with Andy that we would just have to make up our own award; we could win “Best Backyard of the Month” and make our own sign to put back there. I’m still considering it…
Love & Squirrels.