Last November we started our first legit garden. Well, I didn’t know it would be legit at the time. I assumed it would fail miserably, as had all my previous attempts at gardening. I don’t have a green thumb. The only kind of thumb I ever developed growing up was a calloused one from playing too many video games.
I had read the books. But now it was time to get my hands dirty.
We expanded what was the landlord’s vivacious tomato garden, into a 15′ x 21′ straw patch, hoping it would be a good winter cover. But again, what do I know about this stuff?
In the above picture you’ll see little Anna Belle, crying miserably because straw was getting stuck in her boots and gloves and coat. Her first thorn in the flesh.
Here’s an up close shot.
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I can sympathize with you, child. I’m an adult now. But sometimes, no, often, I feel like wailing. I want to throw in the mittens because they’re just getting so ragged from work.
You’re a tough bunch, you kids. Love for family is fierce, though strange at times. We need one another to survive. Well, really, you need me to survive at this point. We get married and start having kids, having no idea what we were getting ourselves into. ‘Yeah, I got this. I’ve seen it done.’ But no. We’ve got nothing now. And with each passing, I’ve got less then nothing than the day before.
‘I don’t know how you do it, between this and raising four kids,’ a co-worker said to me the other. ‘I’ve learned to just expect that I’m going to be a failure at everything, and that seems to make it all okay,’ was my response.
A failure in the most loving, and gracious way possible. No one really tells you what it’s like to be an adult, let alone to be a married adult with four children. I guess the fact is, no one really can tell you. For if they could communicate the depths of joy and sorrow that just raising a family would bring, your brain would pop like a latex birthday balloon. No one has the capacity to understand such a role until they live it.
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Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush, second to last time. I’ve been letting them each make up the next verse. Caela, Annie, Emeth, Caela, Annie, Emeth. ‘This is the way we…’ and I pause, and they add whatever insanity comes to their little child-mind’s.
‘This is the way we eat your beard!’ Annie says, coming at me with chomping lips. I lose it with laughter. I am tired, and I want out. I want to be left alone. I have nothing more to give. But this song-game is starting to loosen me like red-wine.
* * * * *
How do they do it, these children of mine? How do they split my sides with laughter, and make my head spin, all within thirty seconds? Was I like this? Did I play with mom and dad’s emotions like sand, sifting them through plastic play-things? Was there ever a time I had not a care in the world but to be fed, clothed and loved?
* * * * *
I stared at Emeth on the see-saw. Four year-old boy. Lanky arms, bright eyes and an explosive smile. He looks over at his mother and sisters on the other side of the playground, lost in some momentary thought. Then we lock eyes. Just for a moment. My little boy, before you go trotting off to meet them, and I follow.
In that moment I saw not the little baby Emeth that you seemed to be yesterday, but a shadow of who you will one day become. Of course, I don’t know for sure. No one can. But you just seemed so mature. So old, when I still look (and act) like a child myself.
* * * * *
Micaela is six now. Last night she was at mom-mom and pop-pop’s for a sleepover, celebrating. A dinner of her choice (steak and potatoes), then a night on on Passyunk. Rachel and I took the opportunity of having one less in the house to do some much needed organizing and cleaning. Carla and Emeth each have an ‘artwork drawer’ on the shelf. I hate throwing their artwork in the recycle bin, but due to place constraints, I sometimes force myself to go through their overstuffed drawers and decide somehow which art is worthy of retaining, and which is less-worthy.
Each child seems to go through themes and phases in their work. Annie started with wide scribbles, followed by smaller scribbles in the imitation of handwriting, and has recently moved into the drawing people phase. Little oblong heads with some semblance of eyes and mouth, and little feet that jut out like a tadpole. The beginning of her drawing evolution.
Emeth really takes a theme and runs with it. For awhile it was the daddy/Emeth truck series. Endless pictures of him and daddy driving in the truck that daddy doesn’t have on the way to his ‘four birthday.’
That endless pre-occupation with the number four.
Then he started adding words as he learned to spell. His uncanny ability to write his name backwards: hteme.
Then there was the scooter phase. And now, it is the beloved Emeth with a blanket on his head underneath his baseball cap, riding on his doggy, Tuffy, or walking next to it.
As I went through Micaela’s drawer last night, I noticed a vast collection of religious and spiritual work. Drawings or paintings with phrases like:
GOD LHFS ME [God loves me]
Jesus is GOOD to ME
Jesus Love ME
Jesus is MOY LORD [Jesus is my Lord]
Jesus is GOOD
GOD is GOOD
GOD is GRAt [God is great]
GOD MiE FiHR [God my Father]
GOD lam GODS [God lamb Gods]
GOD taks Ar Af ME – GOOD GOD [God takes care of me – Good God]
GOD LHf ME – PLES LHf ME [ God loves me – please love me]
Pictures with a cross in the middle. Pictures of home, garden, family, and even of her and her future husband. Pictures full of love between God, herself, and those around her.
Yes we read scripture together as a family, but I often wonder if they are even listening, distracted as they are by one another. But the Spirit blows where he wills, it seems. Bringing growth and understanding of mysteries too deep for words. ‘God love me, please love me.’ Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
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I never knew you could eat rutabaga greens. But they are the crown glory of the garden so far this year. We’ve sautéed them a few times in butter with onions for breakfast. The radishes haven’t faired so well. I think we had three good ones. The rest were duds. It’s very possible that all this beauty is in the greens, and that the actual roots won’t do so well. We pulled up one of the four beets that came up, and it was a baby compared to those rubies at Whole Foods.
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This morning I woke up at 5:30. More rare these past few months. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I made some coffee and went outside to the garden. The air was cool, and it had rained overnight, so I didn’t need to water. I started pulling up weeds in the back squares. Within minutes my hands were covered in cold, wet soil. I looked at my filthy fingernails and tried to imagine all the microbials crawling in and out of me. Fresh soil, gentle breeze, and caffeine running through your system. There is nothing so life-giving. So invigorating.
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The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. (Matt. 13:31-33)
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‘What is all this business about waiting, Lord. I don’t like waiting for my food to come up out of the ground, or for my children to grow up into maturity, or to wait for the desires of my heart. But you keep telling me to wait, to delight myself in you, to not be anxious, to pray. To be still.
‘But how can I be still when there is so much to do? So much to think about, and process? If I don’t do it, who will?’
Then, of course, how pathetic I feel. Like a child not trusting his (perfect) Father to give him his sustenance when he needs it. ‘If you are a good God, you would not withhold anything good and necessary from your children, would you?’
God taks ar af me. From the mouth of babies and infants. Why can’t I rest in your arms, O God, as my daughter rests in mine? God loves me. Please love me! Help my unbelief.