Sunday, May 14, 2017

A mother's garden

It was Mother's Day, and I was in the garden.


To the casual passerby, I was a just a woman of a certain age, enjoying a quiet moment on a warm spring day, taking the time to indulge in a much beloved suburban hobby. ...

Wearing a "Rage Against The Machine" t-shirt.

Killing [weeds] in the name of ... 

It wasn't my finest moment.

I hate gardening.

And I hadn't intended on spending the day alone.

Truth be told, I had had the mother of all meltdowns, and the only thing l could think to do when nature met nurture in this head-on collision of emotional upheaval was to place myself in exile.

And by way of atonement, I would do the thing I hated most.


There I was, out near the road, tending a strip of curated nature I never wanted but knew would grow wild without me.

Tears stung my eyes as I dug out thistles with my bare hands.

The sporadic successes I've had raising plants hasn't been enough reward for the indignities of pulling weeds in full view of the world as its traffic roars past.

Is this motherhood?

Sometimes, I suppose, it is.

I know it doesn't pay to wallow in its indignities. They could be as fleeting as our children's childhoods if we just let them go on without us.

I know the pain I feel at this moment has little to do with being a mother, though. And everything to do with being someone's child.

Mother's Day – the switch hitter's card holiday – ready to give everyone a wallop. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, male or female, parent or not.

That's the garden, too.

A strip of space, bursting with white flowers. The colors will change as spring moves into summer and summer moves into fall. I won't remember everything we planted. The colors will surprise me, or they will remind me of my regrets.

What was I thinking … putting orange flowers there?

I didn't put them there. That will be my answer. These blooms were a gift, planted by a child on one of these annual Sundays during the past dozen years.

As I look around, I notice the rhythm of this garden has no symmetry. No color scheme. No discernible pattern. It is imperfect. Like me. This patch of earth may as well be my fingerprint.

And then I realize something unsettling: The only things I have ever had a keen eye for in this place have been the weeds.

Gardening in anger does that to a person. Focused on the weeds, we only see the flaws.

In the struggle for achieving rich, earthy spaces between the peonies, I lose sight of the whole. I can't enjoy the flowers when the greenery steps out of line.

Nature always has other ideas.

It occurs to me then that this patch of hell has grown on me.

As I mourn the loss of the showy poppies and the dinner plate dahlias I can't revive, I marvel at the Dusty Miller, an annual that, in my garden, has become perennial through sheer force of will.

This is motherhood, too.

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