Monthly Archives: May 2016

The married Gardener

My husband and I have faced some serious challenges together. Like building two houses. His cancer diagnosis. A couple of elections. After each of these rather stressful events, we gave each other a long look, brushed ourselves off and went about our business. However. Gardening brings out some kind of latent control issues in us both. Dare to plant the tomatoes in the wrong part of the patch, and all bets are off. The hissy fits are reality TV worthy.

Things are at their most serious when we have to put equipment together. We just got a new weed whacker and assumed it was ready right out of the box. Charging the battery was the easy part, but figuring out how to attach the safety cover and flower guard? Two Neanderthals trying to program a smart TV would have better luck. Two dumb Neanderthals. It was only when we finally stepped outside to turn the sucker on that I happened to catch sight of our neighbor, Gerry. He had such a pitying look on his face, I knew he’d be willing to help. Sure enough, he had the same weed whacker.

Talking to us slowly and clearly, like we might have trouble understanding (duh) he reached out and pointed to a little button we hadn’t noticed, plus a longer switch. “You have to hold them both down to start it.” We were so thrilled to finally get it going that we were willing to overlook his obvious concern. And, since we’ve lived next door for over ten years, well. He’s seen it all.

It was extremely necessary that I take the first turn. In the end, it was the only turn, because I could not stop whacking those weeds. “Watch the perennials,” Clarence shouted from the sidelines.  He barked out instructions which I totally ignored, and then he ignored me in turn when I told him that there was no room for squash in our small garden plot. “Put the marigolds over here,” he whined, while I planted them in the opposite corner.

It’s fighting therapy, doing yard work together. Somehow, while dealing with the petty details of seed management and the business of how to save the front lawn, we are able to plant a more meaningful peace. Because there are times when you should sweat the small stuff. It makes the big stuff so much easier to handle. Now I’m going to to march over there and take back my favorite rake.

Cry Wolf

In an earlier blog, I spoke of my calmness during emergency situations. And it’s true. However, I left out something important. In minor emergencies, or when there is nothing momentous happening but for some reason I am still freaked out, I tend to gasp. If the situation is serious enough,  I cry out like an actor in a B movie. (But again, not in extreme situations. Then I am like Mr. Spock. Cold. Logical. Seriously calm.)

This gasping, crying out behavior might occur during an exciting passage of a good book. Once upon a time, Clarence would come rushing into the room, a wild look on his face as he prepared for battle. Now, he mostly ignores me. I can’t say that I blame him. When my children were little, my sisters and I would talk on the phone in the evening. From time to time I might draw in my breath sharply. Clarence would put down his paper and wait for the worst news, ever. “Susan had Connor asleep and now he’s awake again,” I’d say, expecting him to also gasp in dismay. Instead, he’d give me ‘the look.’ But for tired mothers of toddlers, this was a gasp worthy event.

If I’m baking and forget an ingredient, or if I’m driving somewhere and realize I’ve forgotten my reading glasses, I may respond with some serious exhalation. This drives my husband crazy. I’ve been trying to change, but I fear the damage is done.

Last week, I suffered an unusual event. It wasn’t serious, just unexpected. I decided to read my kindle while walking on my treadmill because, as previously stated, sitting is uncomfortable. Somehow I missed seeing my giant purple exercise ball perching against the wall at the end of my treadmill. I climbed on and set the speed. Within seconds, the machine started making these screechy, rubbing noises. I squinted toward the front where the motor is, and then, to my alarm, I began to rise into the air. “Help!” I called. “Someone help me!” Of course, since only my husband was home, no one answered.

Actually, Clarence did answer. He said something like, ‘Nope. Not falling for it this time.” “No, really,” I screamed, “something is happening to me.” Finally I had the sense to jump off the treadmill. I watched, my mouth gaping like a Southern Baptist at a hooker convention, as the track continued to rise in the air. Then it started jumping up and down, up and down. I leaped backward, kind of wondering if the thing was possessed. That’s when I noticed the ball. “It’s okay,” I shouted. “My exercise ball is trapped under the treadmill!” ‘Uh huh,” Clarence said, not stirring himself from his chair. Really, I could have died.

On the other hand, its my own fault. Perhaps being calm in a serious emergency has this kind of effect. A person feels the need to react at least some of the time. Right? I mean, a ball caught under a treadmill, a person rising in the air like the rapture was happening and I was ascending to meet Jesus? I have to confess, the thought passed through my mind at the time. ‘So this is it.’ I think that was worthy of a gasp or two.

I’ve been wondering about this whole thing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a person can’t be calm all the time or they’ll simply explode. In a real emergency, I’m a cold fish. But when things are less extreme, I let out a cry or two as a way of reducing pressure on my brain. No one operates well with a full head of steam. And someone needs to explain that to Clarence. But in a very calm way.

Dear Fathers

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No mother can resist breakfast in bed delivered by her own children. How can her face not light up at the sight of those precious little beings? She knows every soft curve of each little face and how the stem of their necks are so fragile, its almost worrisome. So the burned toast and strange concoction of pancake, peanut butter and jam (because they thought it was more fun than syrup) is welcome when brought into the bedroom by these tiny,  playdough covered hands. Mom wipes the sleep from her barely opened eyes and tries not to wince as the tray slides, spilling coffee all over the new duvet. The children lovingly watch every single bite. I know, because I tried to escape to the bathroom once to flush a meal down the toilet and got caught.

Mother’s Day is a celebration of a child’s love for mom, and a dad trying to make it all work. But here is what mom might really need. A day off. Maybe at home, just lounging in her pajamas, listening to the house echo around her.  Add in a bath, a book, maybe, or a Netflix binge. A whole day dedicated to her recovery. Because mothering is a slog. Parenting in general is like attending a school where you never get the marks you’d like and always feel like you’re going to fail or at least fall short of how everyone else is doing.

You can’t put a price on love, but let’s try. Imagine if you charged your kid for every single thing you do. A pee break in the middle of the day would cost your toddler a quarter. In the middle of the night, its a whole dollar. for those snacks you prepare that they forget to eat, perhaps a sliding scale, depending on your mood. Meals, laundry, bedtime routine, helping with homework, weeping in the night (your own weeping) washing faces and hands, putting on sunscreen, parents day at school and camp, piano concerts that go on forever because everyone plays the same song, soccer games, baseball, all the pets, hair washing and brushing, funny stories, singing in the car so your toddler won’t fall asleep and stay up until midnight. Waiting up for teenagers. Talking to teenagers. Worrying about teenagers. The list is endless, really. And if children had to pay, say, when they turned thirty, well. You’d make a killing.

But that’s not how it is. Because mothers are cheerleaders for everyone in the family, including dad. Every single muscle and bone in their body is honed by parenting because it takes its toll. But while it’s busy taking, it’s giving as well. Once my children left home, I had a revelation. Life was so easy! Meals lasted forever and I hardly ever had to clean the house. But. There was a flatness to it. I’d become addicted to the excitement children bring to our lives. When you have kids, you get to view the world like they do, and its always astonishing and beautiful and unique. Every single time. The way toddlers can listen to the same story over and over again, and never tire of it. The way they stop on a walk to gaze at every rock and blade of grass. It’s painfully slow, but awe inspiring because it takes you back. The things they say, the way they question absolutely everything. No one has ever made me laugh as hard as my own children.

Anyway, dear father, whose turn is coming up in June. Do something great with the kids on Mother’s Day, preferably away from mom. And maybe when your turn comes up, she’ll do the same. Then, reunite for dinner and talk about your day. Mom will be in a very good mood. And you know the old saying. When mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.