It was a summer of 1994, my parents were married, Toy Story 1 was in theater previews, and my grandparents were coming over for an evening BBQ. Like every Saturday, it was dad and my turn to spend some quality time together. This often meant it was our weekly Saturday ritual to mow the lawn together and then lay on the freshly cut grass under the sun appreciating our efforts while doing father and son talk. I'd ask him how many blades of grass he thought were in the entire yard. He would explain to me that you could get an estimate by taking a square, counting the blades in it and then multiplying it by an estimated amount based on the square footage of our yard. The times I couldn't mow the lawn with dad were a pretty big deal when I had some other obligation with mom that day.
This mower is not just a machine to me. It represents fond memories growing up as a child and a time period where other family members like the best grandparents you could ever ask for were around. It's a vivid reminder of my past. It's a heirloom. It's the same, to me, as receiving something like an old watch that your grandpa or dad always wore.
I know every intricate sound of this machine probably better than any other. I grew up hearing it run and my dad taught me the importance of caring for your power equipment with this mower at an early age. After every mowing, we would always wash it, clean the grass out from the underside and he would instill in me the pride that we should have in our equipment with it. It was the first machine I learned how to change the oil on. It was the first machine I probably ever used.
This is the 1990 Honda HRC216, "The Commercial."
The Commercial, as my parents always referred to it as, was bought new by them a few years after they bought their house together in the mid 80's. It was a big yard and my dad wanted something heavier that would last a long time over the standard offering that wouldn't last as long. The HRC216 Commercial had come out in summer of 1989 and my parents who also had purchased their first new car in 1990 (a Honda Accord) found "The Commercial" to be the obvious choice for them. I guess it's easy for me to see why they have always regarded Honda as such a quality brand, especially my dad. There were a couple of times growing up that my parents considered purchasing a riding mower and I usually tried to persuade them in that direction solely for my own benefit of enjoyment of course. In fact, I remember the day we went to a John Deere dealer (the same dealership that eventually became my first job!) and they test drove several in the parking lot. I thought it had won them over. The Commercial, however, was always enough for my dad though.
Off To The Races
As I grew a little older and my head was higher than the handlebar, my parents bought me my very own Honda walk-behind. While I sort of took over the role then to do the lawn mowing, my dad and I would often tag team with our machines which was a lot of fun. He would always bring out The Commercial and that to me was sort of like him flexing his muscles, I felt, while I had the lighter end version. It would always make me envious that he could keep his mower running when he emptied the bag (cool) while mine always had to be shut off (not cool.) We would even "drag race" our Honda mowers and my dad would usually rev his up to egg me on but The Commercial would always win the contest being the much noisier, heavier, and faster machine. It was dad's mower. It was the boss and I had always looked at it as being the ultimate lawnmower as my parents did and referred to it as.
There were tools of my dad's I saw wear out and get replaced, vehicles my parents bought and sold over the years, but The Commercial always stayed. I remember going to the dealer with him several times to have it serviced and feeling bad for it when we'd pick it up if it had been stored outdoors because that wasn't how we cared for it. I can only remember one time that there was an issue (maybe a recall) with one of the cables I think much earlier on.
In my mid-teens in high school my parents sadly divorced. I saw my dad less but we still had (and have) good times together. It was around that time I remember thinking to myself how special it will be to one day inherit The Commercial as it will be an artifact representing some of our close times together. It's not really about the machine when it comes to this, it's the meaningful memories, times past, and people it represents.
Over recent years, he had been talking about giving it to me as his yard was getting smaller and he was going to be getting something smaller (and I'm not going to mention the replacement as it would only be insult to this mower so we'll leave it at that!) but each time I did not push the opportunity as I wanted it to all be on his timing. September of last Fall, he asked me if I wanted to come over and take The Commercial as he said it was the last year of him using it. It was more emotional for me than him as I felt like it was a part of him that I was taking as I see nothing but him in that machine, but I knew he understood the significance of it and that he wanted me to have it. I hadn't looked closely at it in a long time and I remember moving it around, feeling its weight and having flashbacks- it was just the same as it always was and sounded like. As much as I had been looking forward to this day for years, a heavy lump in my throat set in due to a feeling of sadness that came over me after I brought it home. It was a reminder of the end of an era more than anything else; my dad was no longer using it anymore which didn't feel right- it had always been his and part of me didn't want that to change. Even though I'm in thirties now and those early days of he and I were so very long ago, it somehow made a statement inside me that my dad was older now and another chapter had turned furthering us away from those special days. If I could send it back in time, I would as strange as that probably is to say. Bah, I'm tearing up a little by typing this as I did when I brought it home and unloaded it. At the time, I told myself that I wouldn't touch it until next spring when I could come back to it with a fresh mind.
Spring is Here
While it still feels like it should be dad's mower, I pulled it out and have been enjoying detailing it along with doing some maintenance while listening to some 80's/90's soundtracks that would've been played in our home stereo being the reminiscent person I am. There is no amount of money that could ever buy one of those Saturday afternoons back again.
Here is what The Commercial looks like today with a special feature at the end.