Boys and Their Toys
When we bought our first home, my husband, the Guv, eagerly took ownership of the collection and curbside disposal of leaves come autumn. On a little over half an acre in New Jersey, our home backed to a mini-forest whose oak canopy provided us with a shady summer and a mountain of leaves in the fall. I’ll never forget the huge smile on his face when he returned from the hardware store with the latest in a stream of homeowner gadgets: The Leaf Blower. The October morning that the Guv and The Leaf Blower chose for their first foray into the world together dawned bright and clear, chilly but windless: a perfect day for the task at hand. The Guv’s excitement was palpable. Our then-four year-old daughter Petunia and I took a perch at an upstairs window to watch the excitement.
With The Leaf Blower strapped to his back, the Guv started at the rear of the yard, using a back-and-forth sweeping motion that blew the leaves to the right and to the left. When he reached the edge of the row, he’d turn and do the same thing. After an hour or so, he removed his ball cap and scratched his head at his lack of progress. He’d traversed about a sixth of the backyard, but all of the grass remained leaf covered. Petunia and I had watched as he cleared a path of leaves and then, on the subsequent walk back, blew the same leaves back onto the previously-cleared path. (He later blamed an imagined “crisp breeze.”) Perhaps I should have stopped him or offered some constructive criticism, but I couldn’t figure out a way to frame it so that he wouldn’t accuse me of trying to manage his Man Work. So, instead, we watched him try a new approach.
As hour number two of The Guv and The Leaf Blower Show began, the Guv stood in the very center of the lawn and began to traverse a spiral path out, blowing the leaves out in front of him in a larger and larger spiral. The problem was that the fallen leaves covered enough grass that he had to walk a very narrow, tight spiral, blowing only straight out in front of him. It might have been zen, like walking a labyrinth… but the Guv became impatient, and he tried to walk a bigger spiral faster, and leaves flew everywhere, and the grass remained covered.
As hour number three commenced, frustration set in, and the Guv motioned for me to join him on the lawn. “What am I doing wrong?” he pleaded. I sensed danger, and I lied through my teeth. “I’m not sure, honey,” I gently offered, “I’ve never blown leaves before. I’ve raked them. Would you like for me to grab the rake and help?” He said, “We don’t need to rake. We have The Leaf Blower.” “Yes, that’s true,” I agreed, “But it’s not working right, apparently. Perhaps we should try again tomorrow?” Vowing to do just that, a relieved Guv came inside, reviewing the manual. “Ah-ha!” he declared, “I will try to mulch the leaves tomorrow!” and he showed me that The Leaf Blower could actually become The Leaf Vacuumer/Mulcher with he flip of a switch. When Sunday dawned as perfect as Saturday, the Guv and The Leaf Vacuumer/Mulcher set out again. An hour later, they had collected and mulched one full bag of leaves from about one one-hundredth of our yard. The Guv removed his beloved tool, which had become The Damned Leaf Sucker, packed it away in the box it remained in until our yard sale last year, and asked me to call the lawn mower guys to get rid of the leaves. We never spoke of The Leaf Incident again…Continued on the next page