My childhood home’s lawn received less attention than the people inside. My father worked every weekend on it. He drove a gas-powered mower weighing approximately 1,000 pounds for hours, reseeded bare patches, defeated dandelions, edged around hedges and gardens with a pair scissors, and fertilized it with another 1,000-pound device he drove around for many hours.

Dad eschewed your fancy, highfalutin’, pay-for lawn maintenance companies like Lawn Doctor or Grass Wizard or Weed Vanquisher. He was all about doing it himself—or ordering my little brother to do it himself. The yard carpet, which began as a hayfield, required determination, fortitude, and lots of sweat.

Our lawn was nothing to our neighbors. It was just another suburban green space. But to my dad, like millions of other yard-having homeowners, it was a canvas, a psychologist’s couch, a playpen, a physical manifestation of his deepest fears and greatest joys. Our lawn was one of the few places in my father’s world where he could impose his will. It was also a place where he could take a break from his three children. It was a miracle that he got in.

My dad was always out there, and it taught me a lot about him.


What does your lawn reveal about you? Join the conversation.

Consider the home with its endless expanses silky green and cross-hatched madras pattern. It is beautiful. But a dark obsession with perfection dwells within the home’s walls. Toilet paper must be folded, not rolled. Jeans should have a front crease. Underwear and bedThe sheets are ironed. Cocktail parties begin at 6 pm and end at 8:15. Red wine will not be served as the living room is completely in Siberian Snowdrift. In the event that the dye from their clothes stains, guests are not allowed to sit. Children cry to go to sleep quietly to avoid disturbing their parents, who are also trying to go to sleep.

The house is surrounded a scraggly, poorly mowed field. That’s the older couple where the head of household refuses to pay for something as basic as lawn mowing. But being old is hard and mowing is hard and sometimes a person with arthritis in their feet and hands just can’t work up the juice to spend two or three hours out there. The longer they delay, the worse it will get. Finally, their grown children come to visit. One of them gets roped into smashing down the push mower through the stuff till it resembles a kind of lawn. Repeat. The house will be put on the market within a few years after they move to a condo on the beach.

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The tiny city yard, a 9-square-foot patch of grass in front of a brownstone, is tended lovingly by the building’s most geographically conflicted resident. This city-dweller dreams of being a gentleperson farmer living on a 50-acre plot in the country, but they can’t stand the idea of living without 3 a.m. ramen delivery and a walkable lifestyle. Their only connection is the postage stamp of “green”. “the land,”A faraway place where life is simple and vegetables look exactly like the picture on the packet, and where the villagers live in complete harmony.

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What does your lawn reveal about you? Join the conversation.

Someone owns the house with the yard in dirt. They plan to make it beautiful one day. They have plans, visions, and intentions. The big unfinished shed in the backyard might contain yard equipment. The person’s spouse holds their tongue for the first five years they live there, looking out the window at that rolling yard of dirt that gets tracked all over the house every time someone walks in. Finally, the spouse demands immediate yard remediation. When that doesn’t happen in the following two years, the spouse moves out. Since there is no one complaining every day, the lawn will remain dirt forever.

The home with the appliance- and vehicle-strewn yard is the bête noire of the neighborhood. Untrained eyes may not see that the owner is a hoarder, unable to think for himself and relying on the income from cannibalized part sales. You need to slow down. That’s not a yard. It is their outdoor warehouse, and their inventory-management software. As part of an ersatz social experiment, the owner lives off the income from cannibalized parts. Respect.

My lawn is okay. Not terrible. It’s a former hay field, just like where I grew up, and I pay someone else to mow it, because we don’t have the time or inclination. It took me years before I stopped feeling guilty about it. We’ve never seeded it with your actual grass nor have we researched the right type of fertilizer. It is mostly green most days. If anyone examines it for clues as to the people who own it, I hope we’re projecting casual confidence. Or laziness. Either one would be correct.

Write to Kris Frieswick at [email protected]

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