Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yard work

For a good 30 minutes today, Captain Reed had a rival for my affection.

I was out in the yard preparing to take advantage of Alison going to Godstock -- yeah, don't ask -- by declaring war on the weeds and the specter of a sweet gum tree. I told Karin Ogden, who was taking Ali to church and the aforementioned Godstock event, that I was communing with God outside. I think He'd see it my way.

Anyway, I had most of the tools I would need but I'd forgotten the spade. I heard Alison outside and asked her if she'd come help me. Silence from the smaller redhead. But this from the sweetest boy I know: "Did you need something Mrs. Reed?"

Alex Ogden had stayed over the night before in anticipation of the church event. He came trotting out to me, happy to help. In the past, he's been my No. 1 sympathizer/defender/protector against snakes, threats of snakes and sightings of snakes. And lately, he's just been extra helpful and just plain a joy to have around.

"I don't know where Ali is. I think she's hiding," he said before going off to get my spade for me. I'm pretty sure he'd have done whatever I'd asked -- even if I wanted him to pull weeds with me. I love that Alex Ogden.

A part of me is sad that he has no romantic interest in my daughter. But as she has none in him, it's a good thing. They are, instead, the very best of friends. The sleepover was in jeopardy when Karin discovered he'd not finished his homework, but we promised to do it before bedtime.

Alex was at the dining room table working away, research on the Aleutian Islands on the laptop beside him, the marker basket spilling all over and paper ready to be filled. Homework-free Ali had snagged my iPad and was watching funny cat videos.

When Alex had finished his flag, he moved on to his list of 10 facts and enlisted Alison in the exercise. They synchronized technology so she could help him find interesting sentences. I guess it was too much to think they could share the laptop.

They were using the New World Encyclopedia. At one point, I'd looked over a shoulder and saw a rather long paragraph on agricultural products. I thought that would be a good sentence to use.

"We don't want to use that one. Those people's sentences go on forEVER," Alison said. "But we like to use this site because they use big words and we think the teacher will like that."

Alex was writing about the archipelago and laboring with a stubby pencil and short-term memory loss. "Okay, now tell me how to spell that again," he called out.

"Dude. You were just here looking at it!" Ali said, but relented quickly. "OK. Are you ready?"

It was fun listening to them call factoids and spelling back and forth. The homework probably took about an hour longer than it should have because periodically, Alison would burst out in laughter, call Alex over and they'd double over watching silly cats.

It was hilarious.

So after the kids had gone off with Karin and her mom to church, I turned to face down the weeds. It's been a long, hot and dry summer and I've not been as attentive to it as I should have. Plus, sweet gum sprouts have nearly displaced the moss and crab grass throughout the yard and I've been needing to get at the remaining roots of that tree since we took it down last year.

A couple of hours into the project, I was filthy, my arms were aching and my thighs felt like I'd played catch for 16 softball games in a row. There were roots and weeds and sprouts and clippings piled like death pyres all over the place.

Jeff had emerged, roamed around a bit and then read the sports page. He hates yard work. Hates it. Hates it. Hates it. I like it, so I don't mind doing the majority of it. Usually.

I did enlist him to help me with a big root that wouldn't move for me. A few minutes later, he came out with his fancy ladder and decided he'd try to fix a leaky gutter we have.

I kept digging and bagging. Alison was supposed to be home at 12:30. She'd left at 10. I thought she'd be a good alarm clock, signalling an end to the yard work.

Jeff had finished his work, put away the ladder and his tools and I was nearing the end of weed work, dreading the idea of now having to actually mow the damn yard. I'd made a few passes to the back yard and noted that it was just as overgrown and in need of some love as the front. I'd managed my work stations by moving to a different chore when I couldn't stand the pain of squatting or pulling anymore.

I was back on my knees when I heard the dulcet tones of a lawn mower. Jeff was nowhere to be seen and the house was blocking my view but I could have sworn the noise was coming from my own back yard.

I displaced a few hundred crickets and two enormous, wriggly earthworms, but the mowing continued. I shook my head. Jeff hates yard work. He'd done his handyman duty already. Must be the neighbors, I mused.

I pulled a root, which fought back and sent me slamming down on my butt. I heard more mowing, closer to me. "Nah. Can't be," I said.

But yes indeed, God had rewarded me for my morning worship at the church with the open roof. A miracle had happened and Jeff Reed was captaining the lawn mower. He did the front and back yards both!

This unselfish, unsolicited act bounced Alex right out of the No. 1 spot in my heart.

And yes, I am fully aware that I'm channeling Rosie O'Donnell -- you know that scene in that awful Exit to Eden movie? She's undercover looking for criminals on an island getaway when a manservant in a speedo tells her he's there for her pleasure. That he'll realize any fantasy she could possibly think of. "Go paint my house," she says.

Anyway, there's more than labor that factors into my love of the captain. He's a great dad. He's a great cook. He mixes a mean cocktail. He does laundry. He grocery shops. And he'll rub my feet sometimes without asking.

I am poking a little fun today, though it's true I do love Alex Ogden. But I got super lucky when I met Jeff Reed. I still tear up a little bit when I think about our date last Saturday. I do some of my best thinking in the yard.

While I was sweating in yard today, I realized a few things. We weren't in real danger Saturday at the Sugarland concert, but we were on the cusp and we were witness to true horror.

And while I was in a daze trying to figure out how to respond and if we could help, Jeff took charge and got us to safety.

That, my friends, is what my father would say a real man does. I know it's a bit of a throwback. I've not lived my life waiting to be rescued, and I'm not raising my daughter to be a shrinking violet, either.

But sitting there in the dirt, with my sweat-soaked shirt and grubby face, hands and knees, I realized that I was totally "the girl" last weekend.

Good thing for me, my date was on it.

I guess Alex didn't really have a chance afterall.

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