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  • Back in the fall, I drove up to my house one afternoon after running errands, I noticed that my front yard looked different, somehow changed. After parking my car in the garage and walking around to the front of the house to inspect this issue, I realized the entire yard had been raked without my even knowing. I had not hired anyone to do this work, but, sure enough, piles of leaves lined the street ready for pickup by the city. It’s not everyday that you come home and a dreaded chore is done for you. Never have I entered my home and wondered, "Who in the world dusted my blinds or mopped the floor? "

    So, I wondered, who would have done such a thing for me? At first, I was relieved, but then pride settled in. And I was pissed off that someone, out there, thought I needed help, saw me in my struggle.

    The three 80 year-old maple trees that line my yard pass from bright green through a range yellows and reds, to the last residue of fall, before dropping to the ground. When the brown crumbly pieces of heaven’s paper line my yard, I know it is time to set aside a day to rake them to the curb.

    Raking is a skill that didn’t come naturally to me, but came out of necessity. The work begs to be done, and I am first in line to do it. The grass grows, the weeds overrun, snow piles, leaves fall. Quite frankly, if there had been someone, anyone, especially a man in line, I would have gladly passed the yard maintenance torch. I'm being so honest it hurts.

    The rake was my very first purchase for my induction into the wide world of yard maintenance. Since then, I have become quite the rake connoisseur under the guided tutelage of knowledgeable yard professionals. After several seasons of raking my yard with my trusty ol' spring-steel leaf rake, I can spot a raked yard over a leaf blown one from a mile away. I prefer a metal rake over a plastic one, hands down. I like the way it combs the grass in a more distinct way than a plastic rake. I like the way it feels in my hand, the sound it makes when it strikes and sweeps the ground, even when there are leaf blowers, cursed instruments of ease, humming in the back ground. But I'm not the jealous type.

    This knowledge and every other bit of yard maintenance know-how that I have acquired since my divorce has been hard won. Typically, a long and steady stream of sentence enhancers that would make a sailor cry for his mama proceed my cry for help, and a visit to Ace Hardware. The path to the "HELP" desk at the Ace Hardware is a long and humbling one. Now, the men that work there see me coming, dragging some bit of yard equipment through the front doors and just smile; we are on a first name basis. They have become my surrogate husbands.

    These men were the ones that were there for me when I nursed a spark plug replacement for my lawn mower that was touch and go for most of a Saturday. After three trips to the hardware and one to Advanced Auto for a battery, I had a working lawn mower and was pretty damn proud of myself. These fellas were my sounding board when I was debating the purchase of a pruner. They guided, but didn't press. When I finally made the call to commit to the anvil pruner, I think they approved. They knew the right pruner would literally revolutionize my entire gardening experience.

    There is one piece of the yard equipment puzzle I still struggle to claim dominion over: the wheedy whacker. Regardless of how vigorous my yank on the starter rope, it is difficult to crank, and insists on a temperamental throttle, and oh, the trimmer line continues to jam.

    My Stihl weed trimmer, commercial grade, was met with great suspicion by my hardware husband of the day, Paul, when attending to the line replacement recently. Paul inspected the machine and without looking up above his bifocals from his business asked me what a gal like me was doing with a commercial grade yard trimmer like that.
    “Equitable distribution” was my reply.
    “Ah” was all he could say.

    I naively called dibs on the weedy whacker over the leaf blower in the distributing of marital assets that ranged from the coffee pot to the television set. I could have kicked myself every time I had to rake the massive amount of leaves that fell in my yard. But if I had taken the leaf blower, I would have missed out on all the raking. And if wasn’t for the raking, then I would have missed out on knowing what a bunch of crazy kids did in my yard one afternoon when surely they had more important things to do than tidy up my leaves. My pride didn't taste as bad as I thought when I learned who had helped me and the feeling of being loved well lasted very long on my palate.

    And most certainly, I would have missed out on celebrating my third summer anniversary with my hardware husbands. Perhaps some tomatoes or squash from my garden would be an appropriate gift. I think their wives would agree.
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