$5 and a Watermelon Slice

The nights would be sticky and humid, and the cicadas chirping away. The sun was still high in the sky after dinner, and my dad and i would begin our weekly trek to grandma’s. On these nights, I got out of dishes-and-sweeping duty.

For many summers until I graduated high school, I would join my dad in caring for his mom’s yard. It wasn’t too large, and she had a riding lawn-mower, so looking back, maybe my dad liked the company, or maybe (probably) he was trying to instill a work ethic in his daughter.

We would jump into his truck, loaded with our push mower, my machine for the night, and drive the several blocks to her home.

I usually mowed the front, which had fewer trees to maneuver around, and was smaller. But, it faced the road, so the lines needed to be neat and straight. While dad worked on the backyard, I would walk up and down, drinking in the smells of freshly-cut grass.

I never minded this chore; it was nice to be outside in the evenings, my dad was good company, and my grandma paid me $5– a lot of cash for to a 12 year old– even to a teen for a hours’ worth of work. After finishing the yard and packing up the mower again, we’d head in to visit with Grandma.

I loved her home. It smelled of her perfume, food, and butterscotch candy. Although diabetic, she had a crystal candy jar that was routinely emptied by her 40-some grandkids. She kept homemade chocolate chip cookies in the lazy susan cabinet. And she almost never failed to have watermelon sliced for us after we mowed.

Looking back, I see now how wonderful it was, these visits with just my dad, his mom and me. Other times at her house, there would be a mixture of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. But these quiet summer nights were just us. We would chat about the yard, the neighbors, the local goings-on in town, and occasionally stayed long enough for a round of cards. Often, her phone would ring and I would get the privilege of answering it (this thrilled and scared me at the same time.) It was usually an uncle, and we’d chat briefly before handing it on to Grandma.

“Well, I guess we’d better go,” my dad would say. The sun was dropping in the west, the bugs were increasing their nightly song, and there was a good chance my dad still had some odd-jobs around our house to complete before bedtime. We’d wave goodbye, my $5 bill in hand, and a comfortable feeling of belonging and being needed.

Grandma passed away during my freshman year of college, so the mowing sessions ended then. But when the weather is just so, and the sun about to set, I think frequently of those lovely summer evenings I passed with her and my dad.I’m grateful for the love, work, and watermelon bestowed on me during those care-free summer nights.

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