Even though electric and gas mowers were reasonably priced, my husband and I purchased a push mower when we bought our first house. We both try to be green when we can, and I was still under the illusion that I would happily mow the yard in my shirtwaist dress, high heels and pearls (I must have been channeling June Cleaver). Bright blue birds would sing while circling my head and colorful flowers with smiling faces would dance nearby. That was the adult translation of my fun-filled childhood memory.
Instead, the bumps in our lawn thwarted forward motion and the recalcitrant weeds seemed only too pleased to play dead while the mower passed over them before happily springing up again. After a couple of laps over the same stretches of uneven, unhappy lawn, I gladly let my husband replace me.
He decided the trick was speed and began running pell mell across the lawn. I fully expected him to fly over the handle and be subjected to a number 2 haircut from an unstoppable mower. Unable to watch, I went inside, grabbed the newspaper and, resigned, began leafing through the inserts looking for lawn mowers with motors. Hmm. Maybe my ‘feel good’ memory had to do with how I felt when I was FINISHED mowing the lawn. Outside, my husband tired quickly with no mishaps.
It’s funny how time changes things. When I was long and lanky in grade school, they used to call me ‘trash can’ cuz I would gobble up all the unwanted cakes and cookies from lunch trays and metal Barbie lunch boxes. Foods that used to taste so good, so ‘just right’ then, just don’t have the same flavor anymore. Nowadays, one Little Debbie does me just fine…for a month. Were things really that sweet back then? I’m lucky I still have my own teeth!
And things we used to do don’t have the same appeal. I can remember roller skating at the local rink for hours, holding hands with the boy du jour, my long hair flowing behind me as we’d skate over that smooth wooden floor as long and hard as we could. There was nothing else like that feeling. It was like flying! When they announced the last song, I can still remember that crestfallen feeling, knowing the magic was ending.
Some 40 years later, I tried to recreate the experience at a little rink tucked away in a nearby shopping strip. Soon enough, the smell of greasy popcorn and burgers, the odor of the stained, rented, leather roller skates and the flashing disco ball had my stomach heaving. Kids who barely reached my waist wove in and around me, actually scraping my wheels with theirs as they rolled ahead, slyly looking back to see if I’d tumbled yet. (I hadn’t and I didn’t.) And, speaking of rolling, you should have seen my husband’s eyes as he gripped the half-wall surrounding the rink while trying to get his balance. He’d never been to a skating rink before and, no doubt, never would again. And I wasn’t flying so much as I was desperate to get my money’s worth before taking off skates that were starting to make my feet itch inside two pairs of socks.
So, I’m grudgingly accepting the fact that our memory plays subtle tricks on us. I think the answer is to let sleeping illusions lie. While many of the things we did and ate as a kid were right for the time, they’re probably not worth revisiting or reconstructing now.
So, when I get the urge to try out a trampoline or buy a strawberry pop or think about the rusting pogo stick at my mom’s house, I head to the garage. I look at the push mower hanging dejectedly on the wall in our garage. I smile as I run my fingers over the handle and remember my husband flying across the yard with a maniacal gin on his tanned, lean, handsome face. To my way of thinking, that’s a better memory than the earlier one, but it’s also a good reminder that I should leave some of those old memories intact.