A house with hedges

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twitter: @right­meg

It was long over­due. If I’m ac­tu­ally notic­ing the gnarly weeds, deer-bit­ten hostas and over­grown yard, you know that ev­ery­one else is, too.

Though my hus­band and I di­vide chores pretty equitably, yard main­te­nance is gen­er­ally his do­main. I do try to pitch in, though, when it gets too wild . . . and it’s too wild. Of­fi­cially.

Un­for­tu­nately for us, the only time we had to get the land­scap­ing un­der con­trol fell dur­ing the hottest week­end of the sum­mer (so far, any­way). I oc­ca­sion­ally make over­tures about pulling weeds on a week­night — but get­ting din­ner done and cleaned up while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cater­ing to our tod­dler’s de­mands means that, by 8 p.m., there’s no way I’m bat­tling bugs and prickly plants out­side. It’ll have to wait.

Af­ter hav­ing a baby, some tasks — even ba­sic tasks, sadly — have fallen by the way­side. I didn’t like gar­den­ing be­fore I had to op­er­ate on four hours of sleep, but I will ad­mit that pulling weeds is pretty ther­a­peu­tic. Es­pe­cially when it in­cludes that sat­is­fy­ing snap of roots com­ing loose.

Grow­ing up, I liked help­ing my grand­par­ents with yard work on sum­mer morn­ings. Like most kids, I was im­mune to con­cerns about sun ex­po­sure or over­heat­ing; I just wanted to run through a sprin­kler. But head­ing into my teen years, help­ing Gram with the ac­tual gar­den­ing felt so­phis­ti­cated com­pared to hang­ing with the “lit­tle” kids. I wanted to be help­ful.

Once a teacher’s pet, al­ways a teacher’s pet.

Grandma hated — and prob­a­bly still hates — the shrub­bery along sev­eral sides of their prop­erty. Though it looks nice and stately, the bushes grow overnight. It’s a never-end­ing bat­tle to keep them in check.

Her re­frain, es­pe­cially in the heat, was fa­mil­iar: “Me­gan, don’t ever buy a house with hedges.” And we thought we hadn’t. When we first ar­rived at our fu­ture home on a snowy day in March, ev­ery­thing was dead or dor­mant. Ap­par­ently the bushes had gone wild while the house sat va­cant, so a com­pany was hired to “trim” them. Only it was more like a clean shave.

I thought they were goners, re­ally. Look­ing at the stumps, Spencer and I as­sumed someone had been “help­ing” us by just get­ting rid of the bushes. Maybe they knew some­thing we didn’t.

But they came back — with a vengeance.

We moved in dur­ing a heat­wave two years ago, and now we’re siz­zling in one again. Af­ter fi­nally get­ting Oliver down for bed on Satur­day, Spencer and I talked about our lengthy to-do list. We do this of­ten: sit­ting to­gether to dis­cuss what we want to ac­com­plish be­fore an­other work week re­sumes.

It’s fun, re­ally! Es­pe­cially when we do ex­actly zero of those things, loaf­ing around with ice cream and the new “Di­ver­gent” movie in­stead.

But not this time. By 8 a.m. Sun­day, I was on my sec­ond cup of cof­fee while Oliver chat­tered at my feet. The pull of the couch was strong, but we had to get out there be­fore the heat in­ten­si­fied. We’d waited too long al­ready.

With Ol­lie watch­ing cu­ri­ously from his stroller, I pulled weeds, pruned shrubs and kept one eye out for lurk­ing spi­ders as I moved through the yard. In­sects buzzed in my ears. The sticky air set­tled like a sec­ond skin. Sweat poured down my back.

And Spencer, work­ing nearby with hedge clip­pers, stopped me in my tracks.

“Care­ful — that’s poi­son ivy,” he said, pointing to a vine creep­ing along a drain spout. Where I had just been work­ing.

“Um . . .” My stom­ach flipped. “Do you see it any­where else? In the flower beds?”

He pulled the vine him­self, car­ry­ing it into the woods. We couldn’t find any­thing else close to the house.

But that didn’t keep me, Ms. Power of Sug­ges­tion, from sud­denly feel­ing a tin­gling on my hands. “How quickly does poi­son ivy de­velop? The rash, I mean?”

“Not that fast,” replied Spencer. And he would know. The vines climb­ing many of our trees are thick and gnarled. He fights them back con­stantly, care­ful to avoid the vines — but his worst case of poi­son ivy still re­quired a trip to ur­gent care. Out-of-state, even.

Af­ter an hour out­side, I felt I’d done my time. The yard looked pass­able. Oliver was bored and cranky, kick­ing his feet in protest. I des­per­ately needed a shower.

But I’d ac­com­plished some­thing: some­thing with my own two hands.

Ones that could soon be cov­ered in a rash — but still.

Never buy a house with hedges.

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