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By Doug Jimerson
I grew up with circus people. Or more precisely, circus person. As a young man, my grandfather worked as an acrobat in a traveling circus. He and his two partners would go from city to city, showing off their precise movements on the fulcrum, trampoline, and balance beam. By the time I knew him, however, my grandfather had long since retired from the circus and worked for a New Jersey power company washing streetlights from his perch high above the streets of Jersey City. He always told me that the key to his success in both jobs was “to be precise and pay attention.”
My grandfather also loved his lawn.
With precision and attentiveness, he managed the maintenance of his lawn in the front of our house. Actually to call it a lawn is an overstatement. It measured 10×30 feet, and at least half of that space was a steep slope to the sidewalk. Much of the area was shaded by tall Norway maples, and my Grandfather was constantly trying new fertilizer or seed mixes to thicken up the grass beneath the trees.
My grandmother used to joke that he probably knew each blade of grass personally.
When I turned 8 years old, my grandfather decided it was time for me to learn to mow. Properly. He was always clad in a vest (with pocket watch) and cap. While I mowed, he paced back and forth on the front porch stoop, telling me in great detail how to push his spotless, well-oiled reel mower. I was a good student. Back and forth I mowed the turf, taking care to not leave visible lines or marks in the grass.
He showed me the correct way to position my body in order to gain better traction and speed. He was never hard on me. Just precisely instructive. He wanted me to understand that sometimes the simplest things in life, like mowing a lawn, can be the most satisfying.
I think about my grandfather’s love of lawn when I mow my own. And I feel the same pride in mowing the right way, my grandfather’s way: with precision and attention.
Doug Jimerson is a writer, garden expert, and owner of Studio G. Previous to Studio G, Doug spent 30 years as editor-in-chief of the Garden and Outdoor Living Group at Better Homes and Gardens.