BENEATH HER RAY BANS
As she whizzed about her yard on her bright green riding lawn mower which had an equally bright yellow seat cutting the straggly weeds down to size, no one would have guessed that a gathering of tears lay pooled beneath the Ray Bans perched on her face. Though the sun was not out, she wore them anyway, presumably to keep the crow’s feet at bay, but on this particular day, more so to hide her sadness. For with each pass of the mower, she collected more than grass clippings, but also thoughts. And with each pass, she mowed down the memories of the past that were akin to weeds down to size.
Learning to operate & maintain a riding lawn mower, a weedeater, or a blower were never on her Bucket List. But that is not why she was sad. She remembered that he had promised to do this very thing for her. But when she had realized that he was not able to cut down his own memories of the past – even though they were like pretty weeds that, though they bore little blossoms that appeared to be attractive, would inevitably choke out all of the good from him – she had cut him loose. She knew, down deep in her being that to watch him surround himself with those weeds until they overtook his very essence, well, that was a scene she could not bear to watch. She had helped water the garden of his soul, & she had seen him blossom & come alive before her very eyes! She knew how beautiful he could become when he was loved the way God intended.
But she had also seen the pervasive intrusion of the weeds as they spread silently yet persistently & overtook his life in such a manner that one day, all you could see was the weeds – you could not recognize him at all any more. Was he really even still there, beneath those weeds at all? Or had those weeds killed him?
She kept going back & forth, back & forth, excising the weeds from her own yard, all the while remembering when she had to be strong & firmly but decisively remove some tenacious weeds from her own life. She had to grasp them, take hold of them, & yank them out by their very roots, for to allow any small portion of them to remain would have been giving them permission to grow & take hold of her life again, & weeds have no place in a proper garden.
One Wikipedia definition of a weed is “a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, ‘a plant in the wrong place.” That is exactly what she had seen happening with him, for she saw that these weeds of his were in keeping with the definition in the Oxford Dictionary, which said a weed is a “plant not valued for use or beauty, growing wild & rank, & regarded as cumbering the ground or hindering vegetation.” And though she well understood obligations, as she was always diligent to honor her own commitments, she knew, whether he realized it or not, that the weeds which he allowed to overtake him were cumbersome to him, & indeed, they were hindering him from becoming the man that God intended. She knew this, because she had seen a glimpse of that man, & the picture of the garden that they had planned to plant together still lingered in her mind. Oh, how she wished she could use the water from those tears that still lay pooled beneath her Ray Bans to refresh his soul & nourish his garden. IF ONLY …
But she had to, as occasionally happens, remove him from her garden, as one must once in awhile rid their garden of good vegetation along with the bad. Sometimes the two are so entwined that you accidentally or intentionally have to remove the good in order to eliminate the bad. And so it had to be. She could not allow the aggressive & unsavory weeds that were dragging him down to choke the life out of her. She sighed, remembering how beautiful their days had been – except for those weeds! They were gone now, & as she kept cutting those memories down to size, little tears slipped from her eyes & trickled down her face until those pools beneath her Ray Bans were no more. Gone, like the tops of the weeds she had just mown down. But there was more work left to do: she knew that in order to grow her own garden that she had to dig deeper, & kill the very roots that remained beneath the surface. And so she did so.
She dug deeper. And after all had been done, there was a barrenness to her landscape. There was a void where those dreams used to bloom. So she planted more seeds, & stood back, & waited for them to take hold, grow, & bloom. She would be sure to nourish & cultivate them.
One has no responsibility to care for weeds. Those people that plant themselves out of place in our lives, & who do not belong there, will only choke the life out of our dreams if we allow them to continue to take hold of us. No, no more weeds remained. She smiled as the sun burst forth over her head. The gentle breeze dried the lingering traces of sadness where once the tears had trickled down her cheeks. And now, the only thing that lay beneath her Ray Bans were smiling eyes that were filled with hope for the future.
She could not wait to see what would spring forth from her garden! She hoped that there would be luscious berries, red tomatoes, all sorts of vegetables, bright buttercups, fragrant roses, & peonies. She loved peonies! Once in vogue, but then relegated to the common man’s yard, she adored their hardy beauty, because no matter how many times you chopped them down, they always seemed to come back, bringing with them their large, bountiful, & difficult to ignore blooms. Sort of like the story of her own life.
And her garden would have NO WEEDS! She cared about it too much to allow that. Besides, his garden had enough weeds for the both of them. And though she felt a twinge of sadness for him because he allowed those invasive things to overrun him, there would be no more tears beneath her Ray Bans for him. With a tad of irony she recalled how fastidious he was with his own lawn – he liked everything to be so perfect for the passersby to see. But she knew his secret: inside his carefully camouflaged front door lay a mess of tangled weeds that were choking the heart & soul out of him. She thought about that time that they had made fun of all of the little purple weeds that had overtaken some of the lawns in his neighborhood as they had strolled past them, hand in hand, one warm Summer’s Eve. Those weeds had made such a significant blanket of purple that it was almost as if they had been intentionally planted there, but they had both known that it was not by design. Yet the homeowners had chosen to ignore them & let them take over their yards, sort of like he had done with his personal life. But it was his garden, & that was his choice to make.
As for her, she dreamed of that house with the wrap around porch, the acreage with the gazebo that stood on a dock extending out into the pond, the park bench beneath the weeping willow tree, the porch swing rocking back & forth, the workshop for special projects, the fire pit for chilly nights, the Japanese maple for fiery Fall colors, the fragrance of the Southern Magnolia tree, the little vegetable garden out back, the sunny rose garden with a dozen different varieties of Jackson & Perkins roses, & the screened porch overlooking the swimming pool out back from whence the laughter of yet to be conceived grandchildren would one day ring out.
All of the beatiful pieces of the patchwork quilt of the future they’d talked about sharing floated through her mind, & she felt their loss in the pit of her stomach. Though they had never materialized, they had still become an integral part of her, & she had mourned their passing. Finally, she realized that though he had chosen to allow the weeds in his life to choke out his dreams, that the only way that those weeds would destroy her own dreams was if she let them. And she was determined not to let them!
Everything that she had imagined was hers for the taking. All she had to do was take care of the garden of her own soul, & God would bring the rain & the sun, & all of the rest would follow. She was sure of that. So she turned off the ignition switch to that big John Deere mower which she had bought so that he would not have to work so hard cutting the grass, & was thankful for the unexpected blessing that she had in it. Though it had been an extravagance to her budget at the time, she had purchased it for him, because she could not stand the thought of him laboring so hard to cut both his & her lawns after working so hard all week long. She had bought it for him, not knowing that one day it would make her own job of eradicating weeds all the more easier.
As she reached up to adjust the green John Deere cap atop her head, she recalled with a faint smile the day that she had ordered it. When she had bought the new mower she had received something in the mail saying that she would get a free John Deere cap, & that she could choose whether she wanted it to be pink or green. He had laughed at her, & said that pink does not go with John Deere! He had teasingly threatened that he would take a pink John Deere cap outside & shoot it if she got that color. So she had ordered the green one instead. Not because he had said to do so, but because she had wanted & intended to give it to him, one of many little expressions of her love & appreciation to him. That green & yellow cap finally had arrived a couple of weeks after she had broken it off with him. She could not bring herself to wear it at that time, because she had hoped for a while that he would come to his senses & decide that he would rather have someone to help water his garden, rather than fill it with weeds. Finally the time had come for her to pull that cap out of its hiding place in her closet, & though she had absolutely never seen herself as a John Deere kind of girl, she had stuck it on her head as if it was some sort of badge of honor.
She adjusted that cap, & then she removed her Ray Bans, & sat there with her face lifted towards the blue sky, & as she breathed a sigh of Thanksgiving, she wondered what must the neighbors be thinking of her now? But it did not really matter, as she was busy planning the things that she was going to plant in her garden …
And when she walked back inside, there in the mirror she saw the smile that lay beneath her Ray Bans!!!
– Lou Lehman Sams