“How do you measure, measure a year?” So goes the famous lyric from that memorable song in the musical “Rent.” “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes …” How do we measure a year? It is different for each of us.

Today, I measured the year in lawn mower pulls. It was a blissfully balmy day in October; we’ve already been teased with frost, and some of us secretly turned on the heat on the frostier mornings. (I confess, I did.)

So when the thermometer tickles 80 — in October — it is cause for celebration. We know enough to make hay while the sun shines.

I found myself mowing the lawn, a job normally done by my 13-year-old son, but today he was unavailable. It was a year ago this past summer that he assumed the job, but could not crank the lawn mower on his own.

Yanking that pull cord is a nasty move. I believe it is designed to wrench even the strongest back.

One can easily dislocate several vertebrae in an attempt to start the darned thing.

My lawn mower boasts “Guaranteed to start on the first pull.” (Really? And who will be on hand to verify that?) Often, it has balked at the first, the second, even the third backbreaking attempt.

But, through clenched teeth, I am comforted by the fact that someone — somewhere — has guaranteed it will start.

Those of us who mow lawns know there is actually something quite soothing about carving a pattern in the tall grass — and who among us does not find that smell of fresh-cut grass intoxicating?

Two summers ago, my son could not pull the cord with enough force to launch the mower. It required two of us to heave the mower to life. He could do the whole job, except what he needed to do to get started — he did not yet have the strength.

This summer? He starts it like an old pro.

And so I measure the year between those two summers with lawn mower pulls.

This summer it was clear — he is stronger. Taller too, looking his mom eyeball to eyeball, which brings him great delight. He’s taller than both older sisters, another source of joy. And he can start the mower without help. Now, it really is his job.

That makes me think of the year between those two summers; the year — for all of us — of unbridled joy, of challenge, a year of hope and heart-breaking disappointments. In every way we are each a year stronger.

This year’s bookend is an effortless pull on the lawn mower cord. And in that wrenching pull, the motor springs to life.

And with that roar, we — all of us — launch into this new season with a new-found sturdiness, new paths to be cut in the proverbial grass, new strength and fresh, new hope.

– Special to the Telegram