On the way to the cemetery I stop at my mother’s house. Even as I pull into the driveway I notice the waist high weeds under the pear trees, dandelions choking the forget-me-nots. The gate is unlocked and Xander and I take shovel to dirt as we search out raspberry starts. The slim spiky branches are wild, unproductive; once prolific strawberry plants withered and decayed, the prized rose beds are massed with weeds.
As we add one small raspberry start after another to our bucket (the trick is to find small off-shoots rather than dig up mature plants), my perpetually cheerful Xander grows silent– the air is thick with neglect and sorrow. Like me, Xander sees parables in the garden.
“Can’t we leave?” he pleads after a few minutes. We’d planned to add a tree peony and grape vines to our harvest, but agreed to come back another day.
Rain spills from the sky as we drive to the cemetery. Aching, I place the flowers and almost flee to the car– I cannot stand the sight of the gravestone.
I’d like to say I rallied once I arrived home. But I sob in Erik’s arms, gently plant the fragile raspberry shoots and go to bed early– numb with grief.
Rain and snow fall all of Sunday and into Monday. My transplants are thriving, grateful for the cool and the wet and I begin to work in the garden where I do have control, where I can plant seeds that will bear fruit for generations.
Erik and Hans finish the grow boxes, Stefan wheelbarrows load after load of garden dirt and compost, Xander attaches the latch to the fence, Erik places Gabe on rock duty as he digs a mighty hole for our new sweet cherry tree, Mary dons too-big gloves, skips and sings “Zippitty- Doo-Dah!” as we draw trenches for peas, carrots, onions, beans.
We make hills for our zucchini and pumpkins and the chickens follow us, clucking their thanks for the tasty snack (OK, some seeds may bear fruit for generations, but I think we’ll be buying our pumpkins this year).
As a final touch, Erik and Xander pull two neglected farmhouse planters from our sideyard. They have been waiting there for 6.5 years– ever since we moved in. With power tools and a bit of hardware, they hang them from the fence where we fill them with rich soil and gorgeous flowers. By the end of summer I expect them to overflow with beauty.
This family, this garden, is my life’s work. Home is my best place to nurture my mother’s legacy (as well as her raspberry plants).
We intend to thrive.