In his essay, “My Landlady’s Yard,” Dagoberto Gilb seems to be writing about a climate and culture that he is both very familiar with and also very fond of, as he is in fact ½ Mexican and lives in Austin, Texas. His landlady seems to be in some form of denial regarding her surroundings, which is evident in her attempt to grow grass and “Yankee” plants in a desert climate. I get the impression that the author is implying that his landlady is a “Yankee” but it is rather indirect so I cannot tell for certain.
Through his statement that his landlady wants green grass in the middle of the desert, I think Gilb is implying the Proverb “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” and by doing so, he is saying that his landlady wants what she can’t have. It makes me wonder if perhaps she had to live in that house at one time and she didn’t want to live there. The author states that she lived there as a young mother and wife.
I picture a young woman who is trying to make the most of her domestic imprisonment, living in a place that is very foreign to her, and her attempt of making it feel like home was to plant familiar life, such as the green grass and shrubs that were indigenous to the climate she grew up in. Although there is some sarcasm in the author’s voice, I don’t sense that he is resentful of her.
On the contrary, it seems to me that on some level he understands why she has done such a silly thing as to plant this grass and shrubbery out in the desert and is somewhat sympathetic to her. I know as the tenant, he must be obligated to care for the property, but I get the feeling that it goes a bit deeper than that, so he does performs his duty of caring for her property not only out of obligation, but out of sympathy for her. And he does it to his own chagrin, as he is wasting the precious water on this foliage that he knows will not thrive in this climate.