Recently I had to get most of my rather large backyard dug up to accommodate a new septic system, and with the ensuing mess and chaos, I couldn't help but think of my mother.
I have written before on my mother's fastidious neatness . It can only be described as over the top, if not slightly cuckoo.
My every instinct was to respond to the septic mess much like she would, angsting over the heavy machinery left in our yard for days, every breath terse with anxiety for the two months, from the time the yard was first dug up till finally the landscapers seeded the new lawn and replanted my beloved red maple tree.
But I refused to go there, to that place of eternal control where we are doomed to failure. Every time. Instead of lamenting my lack of a picture-perfect yard on Easter Sunday, we posed for photos on the heavy equipment and newly installed, but still exposed, septic tank itself.
When the sidewalk from the deck to the pool was accidentally broken to pieces I shrugged. Oh well, it can be fixed.
I recalled how determined my mother had been, some 35 years ago, that there were not to be any marks spoiling the freshly cemented sidewalk in front of our house when we were kids. We were off visiting my grandma the day the concrete was poured, so my mother made my father surround it with saw horses and caution tape. Then she paid two neighborhood boys five dollars each to guard it with their lives until we returned home late that night.
I know, nobody wants their sidewalk spoiled. Yet there's something awfully tempting about that smooth ivory surface, just begging for someone to leave a permanent engraving for the ages. Or at least until the next time a new sidewalk is laid.
With this in mind, I gulped and bit my tongue when Daughter #2 begged to make her mark on our freshly repaired back walkway.
Come on," she pleaded. "It'll be there even when we don't live here anymore. I can show my kids."
I took a deep breath and exhaled. My mother would so not approve. But I am not my mother.
"Okay," I told her. "But be neat. How about just your initials, and maybe the date?"
We walked outside together and surveyed the pristine, freshly laid cement rectangle. And then, feeling rather proud of myself, I handed her the stick.