So there I was, cleaning up my cutting garden, thinking very negative thoughts. "I’m too old for this. Maybe I should just let this garden go back to grass. I can’t handle all these gardens by myself. Maybe I don’t want to sell flowers any more." Not positive self-talk! Because I had made a few paths out of cardboard, and had held the cardboard down with sticks and rocks, I now faced the prospect of bending over and picking up all those small objects. Ugh. Then the solution presented itself – my two youngest daughters came into view. They’re already close to the ground! I thought. So I called them.
"Girls!" They came dutifully.
"I need your help. Can you please pick up all these rocks and sticks in the pathways?"
Christina offered an excuse. "But, I was just about to make a picnic lunch and we were going to go out to the woods to eat it." Sure, she knew Mommy would like to hear that.
"Come on, you can help me. Make it a game. Why don’t you pretend you are an assembly line? Anna-Grace passes it to you and you put it in the pile."
Anna liked that. "Yeah!" she giggled, and passed a rock to Christina like a robot, stomping. "Doomp, doomp, doomp" with each step, she placed the rock jerkily into Christina’s hands, then went doomp-ing back to the next, as Christina swiveled mechanically and dropped it in the pile. That got them going!
Once they had done the sticks and rocks, I gave them each a section of weeds to pull. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I was feeling a little better. When Anna-Grace’s little friend came to play I had them both yanking. Anna-Grace grabbed a weed by the stem, her friend put her hands above hers, and together they yanked, tumbling backwards, landing on their bottoms, weed in hand, and giggling frantically. What a wonderful sound! The best in the world. In the meantime, Christina was swinging the "manual weed whacker" (I don’t know its real name) and I was digging up lamb’s quarters that I had unwisely allowed to grow 5 feet tall, just to see what would happen. Now I know. I won’t let them grow that large again!
After a period of cheerful weed whacking, Christina, almost perpetually bubbly, hung her head. "I’m sorry, Mommy. I lied." I waited. "I said we were going to have a picnic, but I just thought that up on the spot." "So you could avoid helping?" She nodded. "Well, that’s not good. You need to resist that in the future. But thank you for telling me." Ah, Catholic guilt! It’s a good thing. Did I ever mention that I have the best children in the world?
Soon Anna-Grace took the big shovel from me and began hopping on it to get the roots of a big weed. "Hop on it! It’s fun!" she said to her friend. The little neighbor looked at Anna-Grace, then at me, back and forth, shyly eye-ing the shovel stuck in the ground. "Hop on it!" Anna-Grace joyously commanded. I held the shovel and smiled at her. She put her hands on it and looked back at Anna-Grace. Her feet wanted to step; they moved slightly, she looked at Anna again, she bent down slightly.. "Go ahead," Anna-Grace encouraged brightly. The little angel stepped on the shovel lightly, one foot at a time. Naturally, nothing happened. "Aww," Anna-Grace moaned in cheerful disappointment, and showed her friend how to HOP on it. She tried again, with a little more gusto, and got it to go down a little – she was very pleased with herself! Anna-Grace finished it up, and out came that pesky root!
Soon the little girls were finished, and running off giggling, leaving Christina and me to finish whacking down the flower bed. She stuck with me the whole way. At one point I dug out a pokeweed, whose root came out surprisingly well for being so large and bulbous. "Ah! Look at this beautiful pokeweed root! Pokeweed is a plant that is very good for you, up until it’s about 10 inches tall. After that it gets gradually worse for you, until it can make you really sick." "Like junk food!" Christina declared. Ah! I am doing something right!
Christina moved over to the zinnia bed and began whacking them down, as well. I called over to her. "Christina, look what we accomplished," sweeping my hand around to display the cutting garden. She smiled wide. "Do you want to save that bed for tomorrow?" It was beginning to get a little chilly. "No, thanks." "Are you getting tired?" "No." "Well, those stalks may actually be too big to rototill over. Maybe we should pull up the big ones when you’re done."
I began putting away the tools, and when I came back she had finished whacking and had begun pulling. I started at the other end. "Let’s meet in the middle," I said. "OK! First one to the middle gets a nickel!" she answered. She was really enjoying our time together. That’s one of the best things about gardening. The time that we spend together. When we both reached the middle, I gave her a hug.
"Thanks for helping me, honey. Let’s leave the mess for tomorrow." We walked back to the house and, since I'm a workaholic, I immediately got to work on other things. About 20 minutes later, Christina came in. "Mom, where do you put those sticks?" "Well, some will be burned, and some need to be put in the barn, so I will have to look at them tomorrow in the daylight. And the weeds can’t go in the compost until it is turned." "oh." Her voice sounded dejected. "Why?" "Because I put all the weeds in the wheelbarrow. And in a black thing, because there were too many." "OH! Thank you Christina!" I gave her a hug. "Go get me the little Skittle container." Sometimes I gave them skittles for random acts of kindness and obedience. She shook her head. "No, thanks." "Why not?" "Because," she replied in a tender voice, "I just wanted to do something for you. You always do things for us." And she walked away.
Did I mention I have the most wonderful children in the world?