“I’m sorry.” He said over the phone. “This is all on me.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I sat silently and then said, “Thank you.”
Raindrops sprinkled onto the windows and matted down the freshly cut grass. I had just mowed the lawn the day before – the second time. Despite growing up in the Midwest, in suburban homes with plots of grass that required a weekly cutting, I somehow made it through all of adolescence and my adult life never having mowed a lawn. It wasn’t on my chore list as a kid and once married, it became my husband’s role. His role also became keeping track of finances and complaining about why we needed to spend $20 on bamboo drawer organizers – wouldn’t the silverware be fine just tossed into the drawer? Wouldn’t spoons and knives still be discernible among the pile?
My role was taking care of children’s coughs and runny noses, breaking up fights and picking up toys at the end of a long day – then disappearing into glasses of wine to quiet the unsettling voices in my head.
We operated this way for years – never questioning our roles or where they came from. There was never a discussion around what was ours – the jobs we unintentionally claimed yet dutifully completed. We fell into each duty the same way a cat learns to use a litter box, or a child understands that an evening bath symbolizes bedtime - the object is placed in front of you, and you oblige, because no one tells you there is another option.
Starting the push mower was difficult at first - it requires just the right amount of force when pulling the cord, but I don’t have to stretch my arm back as far as I had imagined. The blade cuts the grass whether I’m pushing forward or moving backward, and pressing down on the automatic throttle makes it easier to turn. Uphill requires more effort, but the entirety of the job is actually quite relaxing and rewarding – the parallel green lines and the satisfaction of seeing how far I’ve come.
Now that I’m single, my husband’s old chores, like cutting the grass and changing hallway lightbulbs, have become my rights of passage – mundane daily reminders that I am capable of more than I gave myself credit for. Likewise, the domestic rituals that used to define me no longer hold the same weight or smell of the same resentment.
Every sacred object has been placed on the chopping block for final judgment – the wine glass, the strewn about toys, the gnarly bushes by the front door. Does this matter to me, and at what cost? In stripping everything away, there is no need to drown out voices at the end of the day, because I finally like the sound of my own.
I never asked if you wanted to mow the lawn. Maybe you resented the job as much as I resented having to organize cabinets and clear away clutter. Maybe the cat hates her litter box, and the spray of debris all around it is an act of retaliation. Maybe I purposely spent too much on drawer dividers in order to prove a point. You asked for this – you put me here.
Maybe we all need an honest self-assessment, followed by a subtle rearranging of our roles - a conversation that shakes us awake and opens our eyes to the absurdity of our small life. Maybe we dig in – deep, and instead of arguing about whether or not the unfairly stigmatized dandelions will offend the neighbors, we say what we actually feel.
Even though it risks us having to say the hardest things ever when felt from the heart - like “I’m sorry.” and “Thank you.”
Photo by Samantha Davis Photography