I suppose a blog is nothing, if not a place to share stories. I like that idea.
This post should be subtitled “The time my mom should have beat me but didn’t but still almost killed me because of what I did to our yard”
September 28th, 1991. I was 3 months shy of my 15th birthday.
How can I be sure that was the day? Oh. I’m sure. See, Florida State was playing Michigan in Ann Arbor. Amp Lee was the FSU running back, and he was silky smooth all day long. State won, by like 20 points. It was an epic moment for my football youth fandom.
Some of the details of the day are a bit foggy, but some I remember like it was yesterday. Because, the day wasn’t really about FSU/Michigan so much as it was about Night of Joy.
Night of Joy. If you were a teenager in the Central Florida area, this was one of the greatest nights of your life. For those of you outside the Central Florida region, NoJ is a Christian music festival held at Disney World. The park would stay open until midnight or 1 am. Kids that had never been to church in their life would suddenly appear at youth group the week before, and then be on the van for the ride over. As a hormone filled 14 year old (almost 15) boy, this event was met with wonder at the fact that the hot cheerleader who never seemed to notice you at school was now sitting behind you on the church bus.
I just want to also take a moment and interject here that, in full disclosure, as a devout Southern Baptist raised teenager, I knew that sex and kissing would both send me to hell. But I also knew that I could be forgiven for my sins, and that honestly, how could I help it if she came onto me during the Haunted Mansion ride, and I could just re-pray the sinner’s prayer come Sunday morning and we’d be all good. Needless to say, I had it all figured out.
3:23 – our youth pastor always always ALWAYS picked odd times like that for us to leave. I don’t remember for sure that it was 3:23. I am certain that it was an odd time, like 3:23, or 4:17. He felt like we would remember those times better. I believed him.
Anyway – I’m rambling. The story goes something like this:
I had won a free ticket to NoJ through some kind of game at youth group. FSU/Michigan was, to my recollection, a noon kickoff, which meant it’d be over by 3:15 or so, 10 minutes to the church, 45 minutes to Disney, and 30 minutes later I’d be in 7 minutes in heaven with Miss Junior Cheerleader.
And, as I remember it, my dad waltzed in around 11 (again, these times are from memory, so they may be off by a minute or two), and announced that, unless the yard was mowed, I was not going to Night of Joy.
Yeah right. There’s no way Steve and Joy (as my parents are called by people who aren’t their offspring) are going to keep me from going. I’d won a free ticket.
So I settled in and watched FSU/Michigan. It was a turf game, wherein Bobby Bowden would claim that the Noles would go in, beat an opponent on their field, and bring back a block of the turf to some sort of cemetery for sod in Tallahassee. I remember learning about turf games on ESPN right before kickoff.
This is incredibly nerdy, but I remember Terrell Buckley intercepted an Elvis Grbac pass and returned it for a touchdown. I’m savant-like that way. I also remember a trick play where Casey Weldon passed out to a backup quarterback named Charlie Ward, who passed it back to Weldon for a big gain.
The game was INTENSE. Like. If I hadn’t been home, I might have VCR’d it, ’cause it was huge.
So the game ends, and I go get dressed to hit up the church. And my parents drop the hammer.
“You’re not going to Night of Joy until the yard is mowed”
Did anyone else’s mom have that tone, that “damn right I’m serious boy” tone? This was that. I knew that arguing was pointless. I trudged outside and cranked the lawnmower.
Someone should remind me to do a post about lawnmower theatrics, because how I survived my teenage years with my lawnmower experiences is a definite thing.
My parents lived on an acre lot, about 2/3rds of which was mowable. So I started plugging along. With a push mower.
The days were getting shorter, and the sunlight was almost perfect. I could see my jerk best friend Tony sidling up to blondie on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while I was toiling in the Florida heat, where a fall evening is still 82 degrees.
By the time I reached the field between our house and the neighbor’s, I had made up my mind – this was not fair! I’d had to forgo my free (earned!) ticket! Tony was getting the girl! My parents were slave drivers!
And that’s when it hit me – what could I do to protest? How could I show them that I would mow their stupid yard, but not without lodging a complaint.
Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy with a push mower. I had to stop at the end of every row and raise and lower the wheels with precision. It probably took me an extra hour. But it was. SO. WORTH. IT.
Because, while my friends were busy scoring at Night of Joy (in all honesty, no one ever scored at any youth event – we just all thought we would), I was having my Sistine Chapel moment.
There, on the gently sloping field between our house and the Swart’s, I had carved the perfect Disney Channel logo, complete with Mickey Mouse ears, alternating stripes, and the words “Mickey Mouse” above and below it.
To this day, I’m fairly certain the only reasons Steve and Joy didn’t kill me were: a) the yard was mowed, and b) they were laughing too hard . . .