Happiness must be grown in one’s own garden
I wrote the following story in the Spring of 2007 when my boys were 7, 5, and 1. I was a single mom at the time and I rarely came out and talked about that, but I wonder now if I should have. It was a hard time but not devoid of happiness. My thought process then was that I didn’t want to pigeonhole my writing for just single moms, just like now I hesitate to target it to just working moms, but I am a working mom so I can’t help it if my blog is not so much about homemaking, recipes, and DIY…I’m usually writing stories about balancing work and life or trying to find time for myself (if I’m not writing about the boys..,I thought I could stop, but they’re still somehow present in just about every aspect of my life).
(Speaking of homemaking, last time someone asked me to make something for a bake sale, I wound up buying supermarket bakery cookies.)
The reason I wanted to share this story again today is that I had written about “growing children.”. And now here we are, almost 10 years later. My oldest got his license less than two weeks ago and is off somewhere in his car (I know where he is now: I just texted him because he wasn’t home an hour and a half after school let out), my middle left with his bike and $30, and my youngest made himself a snack and went to eat it in his room. I’ll be taking him to hockey practice and dropping him off. Long gone are the days that I would help him tie his skates and even when I did, I made him sit on the bench outside the locker room because no way was I going in there. My kids are pretty well “grown.”
In the time I have lived in the house that I do, there’s often been someone else around to take care of the yard and garden, but currently, most of this responsibility lies with me. This has always been one of the chores I’ve eschewed, not only because someone else did it, but because I figured “I’m too busy with what’s going on inside the house,” e.g., my three children and my job, which I do at home.
However, this year, I realized that I could no longer put off the inevitable Spring cleanup when a friend pointed out that raking up “all those leaves” (that I had ignored not only in the warmer months but also as far back as the previous Autumn) might be a good service project for our church youth group. Initially my excitement about getting that project done overshadowed my embarrassment that she’d noticed what a mess my yard was.
But then I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to expect someone else to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing. I figured the youth group should spend their time helping someone who really needed it: my older two children have reached the age where they do not need constant supervision outside, and they can actually assist in managing their younger brother. This means we can all be outside together and I can do something other than herd them away from the front yard (which is only a small strip of grass between our home and a busy street) or push them in the swings. Besides, it would be a good opportunity to teach them about yardwork.
So I committed to tackling the project. The following Monday I got out the rake.
Over the course of the next month – a little at a time – I managed to clean up most of the leaves (though I decided to let the ones that are now mostly hidden behind the day lilies rest in peace), plant some seeds, and pull out weeds.
The boys and I went to a garden store to pick out some flowers and when the guy ringing us up did a double take at the eclectic mix we’d chosen (anything blue for my oldest, anything red for my middle, and anything goes for the youngest), and my insistence that we needed not one, but three, “boy-colored” watering cans, I told him, “I’m not just growing flowers, I’m growing children.”
The boys have done a little weeding and watering, which has mostly consisted of flooding the flower beds, making a mud puddle at the bottom of the slide that’s part of our swing set, soaking each other, or whacking dandelions with baseball bats. I’ve been digging dandelions out of the front yard (to keep up with the proverbial “Joneses”), but I am not militant about this – especially in the back yard – since I appreciate receiving the little yellow bouquets thrust at me with small fists. I also like making dandelion seed wishes just as much as the boys do, something that makes many a lawn aficionado cringe.
One day my neighbor across the street came over and relieved me of my lawn-mowing duties. He also helped me figure out what was a weed and what was not, validating my opinion that if I like it, it can stay (including the violets that punctuate the lawn alongside the remaining dandelions). This means that my gardens are a random mix of flowers, ivy and other ground cover, some sort of bush with prickly tentacles, something else that looks like it’s part of the onion family, as well as some bare spots, where the seeds we planted were likely washed away by overzealous watering. (I’ll probably put perennial bulbs there when I figure out when is the right time to plant them). I rearranged the lawn statues, sundial, and birdbath (that my mom left behind when she moved across the country) to suit my own taste.
Recently, as I was unrolling the hose, I surveyed my little quarter acre plot of the American dream, and was reminded of a sentiment that graces one of my sets of greetings cards: “Happiness must be grown in one’s own garden.” I realized that my garden is a visual representation of my life: it is lush and colorful and welcoming to friends and family; at the same time, there are thorny parts, non-conforming parts, and empty parts, as well as some bugs. It’s not perfect by any means, but there’s a tremendous amount of beauty and joy, even in unlikely places. It’s a work in progress and I’m responsible for it.
And then I stuck my thumb over the end of the hose to spray water gently into the birdbath, and made my own rainbow.
“A man reaps what he sows.” ~Galatians 6:7 NIV