Our 21-year-old son is just finishing up his third year in college; next fall his 18-year-old sister joins him on the same campus and leaves behind two empty nest parents….

I just retrieved the lawnmower from the garage for the inevitable (and several weeks late) task of cutting the grass for the first time this spring. Our high school senior daughter parks her car out front each evening on the street. Each time she heads out to school, or play practice, or to shop or visit friends, she cuts diagonally across the front yard taking the shortest possible route to her car. Last year I noticed a well worn path across the grass and asked her to start walking down the driveway instead of the lawn. As I pushed my mower through the tall, lush grass I realized that my request had fallen on deaf ears and I became mildly irritated and made a note to myself to point it out to her this evening when she came home.

Before we ever bought this house, before I ever took a step inside, my wife brought me to to this neighborhood to show me what would become our current residence. The house was empty and locked so we couldn’t go in. My son was 2 1/2-years old and my wife was very pregnant carrying the path-creating daughter. We were looking for a bigger house. We walked around the side of the house and standing in the backyard, under a nice, big apple tree, was a very nice homemade playhouse on stilts with a ladder, slide and double swing set. I told her, “Let’s buy this one!” I hadn’t even been inside but I loved the big backyard. This big backyard eventually became playground central in our kid-filled neighborhood for just over a decade. At one point we even had a zip line from that apple tree to the back of the house. Every warm, clear day that backyard was full of children. At the bottom of that slide and under each swing the lawn was worn away to bare, often muddy, earth. I realized early that I’d never keep grass under those areas and quit trying to make any grow. It was futile.

I finished the front yard and pushed the mower around the side of the house, the same route I took the first time I visited this backyard a little over 18-years ago. It was time to tackle this tall, green mess for the first time of the spring. I don’t really enjoy this task. I had a nice little run of several years of not doing the mowing when that young man still lived at home; but now that job has reverted back to me. What I did notice on this afternoon was that below the slide and beneath those swings, the yard had fully repaired itself. An indentation can still be felt under each area, but thick green grass grows and the evidence of all those thousands of feet brushing the earth as they pumped those swings higher and higher, is now gone. I was suddenly saddened and realized it had probably been six years since the last children exited this backyard fun arena. Where did the time go?

I finished mowing the back and pushed the mower back around front so I could return it to the garage. I crossed over her worn path and realized that this fall the yard would begin to repair itself when my little girl goes off to college. Suddenly I want her to walk on her path everyday. If I’m lucky, I might still see the evidence of her daily path next spring.

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