By Paul Morrone, CFP®, CPA/PFS, MSA
Yardwork was my household chore growing up. From the moment I was heavy enough to press down the safety button on the ride-on mower seat I was solely responsible for keeping up with the grass. For the first year or so, the mower would stall out periodically, especially if I hit a bump or sat too far forward because I was too light and would bounce up and down. At one point, I think we ended up taping that button down to mitigate the chance of stalling. Safety was a secondary concern back in the 1990s… But for me, cutting the grass wasn’t too much work. I was out there religiously on Saturday mornings – rain or shine – making sure that our front lawn looked like Yankee stadium. Especially those first few years, I even enjoyed it. Two decades later, it makes a little more sense because even at a young age I loved to drive anything I could get my hands on. And seeing as we didn’t have a go kart, the lawnmower was the only way I could get my fix. It didn’t quite scratch the itch, but it was better than nothing.
As I grew older, I was tasked with the weed whacker. Which I hated. There was nothing fun about it. This was back when you had to mix the gas and the motor oil in the same tank for the old two stroke engines. Just filling it up and starting it was a pain. I don’t think I ever had the perfect gas/oil ratio, so it smoked like a campfire and always seemed to run out of string at all the wrong moments. In addition to the obnoxious sound it made, it mercilessly flung pebbles such that it made you feel like you were under attack from a cluster bomb. You stunk by the end and were itchy as hell from all the grass that was stuck on every hair on your body. Heaven forbid you caught some poison ivy, it was a week of misery – at least.
I had other jobs, too. Power wash the patio, sweep the garage, clean up the leaves. I should have charged by the hour! But as much as I hated the weed whacker, the thing that I loathed the most was pruning the bushes back in the fall. I dreaded the day when I saw my dad take out our old orange hedge trimmer and get the tarps out of the garage. It was never a good day. The old orange hedge trimmer we used was likely purchased at an tag sale and the sound it made still rings in my head to this day. I’d be constantly wrestling an extension cord that was seemingly always tangled as we moved from bush to bush. None of the trimmings ever stayed on the tarp as we dragged them to the woods. There was just nothing fun about it. But the pièce de resistance of the hedge trimming day was a giant pricker bush that adorned the picture window in our kitchen. This beast would grow back bigger and meaner every year, despite my best efforts to kill it. I would chop that thing down to a few twigs, but by August it was the size of a Volkswagen beetle. It was a horticulturists dream, right in my driveway. And it was my problem. Every. Single. Year.
Until it wasn’t. See for most, the best part about going to college is the freedom of being away from home. The parties. The memories. For me, however, one of the best parts of college was the fact that I was away from home during pruning season!