Wednesday, May 21, 2008


My friend Aimee just told me about planting her garden today with her little daughter Megan, who is 3. She described rows of dozens of varieties of vegetables with a circular area in the middle for pole beans, explained dump trucks of fertile soil being brought into her sandy Main backyard. I sighed, kind of with envy, but mostly with contentment at my own gardening situation, which is so very different.
Our garden is kind of a laughable situation. We go on vacation for about five weeks every summer, in August. For those of you who live in New England, you will realize that without a very attentive housesitter (who we could never afford to pay) this renders our garden a total and complete waste of money and time. No matter how attentive and thoughtful we could be, we would always arrive home to a nest of weeds, rotten tomatoes, bugs, drooping, heavy bean plants, bolted broccoli, and flowering lettuce.
So we changed our pace, majorly. We planted our whole garden in raspberries, a huge, juicy variety that produces constantly from late August until November. I chose this crop for a few reasons: mainly the low-maintanence, convenience of season aspect, but also because raspberries are one thing I could never afford to buy. So we grow them, and for months on end we bring in about a quart a day of raspberries. We eat them on cereal, in muffins, raw, with whipped cream, on ice cream or pudding, we freeze them, we make jam. Our crop is bountiful, and beautiful. We have nothing to plant, nothing to weed. It is a lovely thing.
I do, however, feel some sadness for the fact that my children don't get to experience that beautiful feeling of watching the garden grow up, which I used to love so fiercely. So this spring we cleared a corner of the garden, about a quarter, for Liam. He chose green beans, and he has been vigilantly watering and watching his beans since he planted them. Now a few inches high, we are delightedly awaiting our first harvest. We also have a rhubarb patch, blueberry bushes, and a few strawberries. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? I grow almost every native fruit I can.

This morning I took the three kids (Liam, Phoebe and Aoife) to the river, to walk to Charlotte's stone. They all ran the whole way. They were so happy. I didn't have to carry anyone, even Aoife. They found hiking sticks, poked their way along the trail finding holes in trees, worms, honeysuckle, and river glass. It was such a delightful, relaxing morning. Then I took them to buy a birthday present for my brother and sister in law. We walked through town, with Aoife on my back in the Ergo, and one kid on each hand, and they looked so cute. They were noticably well behaved in the store. I felt proud to have three such nice children with me, and people noticed, and commented. It always strikes me at the oddest moments, that I regularly take care of the three children, the two girls and the boy, yet it never usually crosses my mind that these are in fact the children I have birthed, although the one I care for is not actually mine. When people ask me, "Are they all yours?", which they often do, I feel tempted to say yes-- but not because I feel proprietary towards Phoebe, but because I hate to deny that I have three children. I have never thought of Phoebe as a stand-in for Charlotte in any way, except in that she confirms for me that having the three kids in three years would have been fun and not that hard, because I love having her around. I think there's just something for me about having someone admire me for having the three kids all really close together and then having to say, "No, actually I only have two kids," because that's a lie, I don't have two kids, I have three kids, it's just that this girl isn't one of them.

I've also had these odd moments this week with Aoife, in comparing her to Charlotte, which I never do otherwise. Liam has been very tired and has gone to bed before her almost every night, so Greg gives Aoife her bath by herself, and then reads to her. And there's something about watching Greg take care of Aoife, and only Aoife, that makes me think, "So this is what our family would have been like 4 years ago if Charlotte had lived: just us and our little daughter." This is odd to me because I spend 2 mornings a week alone with Aoife, and I have never had this thought about myself: there is just something about watching Greg that brings it up for me. It also makes me think about how weird it is that I constantly think of Liam and Charlotte, but rarely compare Aoife to her at all. The age difference? I think maybe.


Jen said...

Ah, I wish Lily and I could have joined you on that walk. It sounded so lovely.

Sarah said...

You Mothers, you warriors, you women so full of love and giving, you awe me, you take my breath away, you make me weep with such heartache I want to tear the hair out of my head, beat my chest and wail.
I am a Mother too, but you, you are a special mother that minds a child no one else can see, hears a child no one else can hear. God bless you, you glorious Mothers, in each and every moment of your life.