Last year, I needed spring so badly and it took so, so long to arrive. This year, I didn’t need it quite so badly, but you bet I celebrate whenever it comes. It’s unseasonably warm so far, this March in Madison. The first day of the month, a bitter cold day, my first-grader told us “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb! Did you know that?” It has led to my daughter saying “Mommy! It’s ‘nother LAMB DAY! ALL the days are LAMBS, Mommy!” I’ll take that cuteness anytime!
When my hands first went numb last year and after that intern poked his head through the door, dropped the bomb on me “that we’re thinking this is MS now,” and walked out, I thought about what I would lose. And gardening was one of the first things that came to mind. Nevermind that I couldn’t write with a pen or hold a knife to cut up, well, anything. How would I be in my garden? How could I be?
By April last year, the numbness had mostly diminished, but brushing against anything would leave sandpaper vibrations behind for hours. Planting tiny seeds was challenging and weeding was miserable. I mean, you know, miserable and it made my hands zing. “Adaptive technology” to the rescue: I made the kids plant everything and didn’t weed. When the summer got into it’s hot months we used the drip irrigation sysytem—actually, no. We just stopped watering, let the kids eat whatever they found, and bought a CSA box for the fall.
This year is amazing in how different it is. It’s still cool, so cutting down the garden from last year is not as challenging plus, my hands are not as reactive. The really great things, though, are the difference in the kids. I can be in the garden and they can just play in the dirt in the next bed, or their clubhouse, or run around and do whatever things kids do on a lamb day. They don’t need me. And it’s lovely. They don’t need me to play with them or find them things or do things for them.
In part motivated by the principles of Montessori, and in part by my own realization of what would my children do if they didn’t have me? I started deliberately teaching them things, like how to make a sandwich, and making them do things, like get their own cup of water. I moved things around so they could get to plates and cups and silverware. So they could reach the pb and j, fruit and snacks in the refrigerator, cupboards and counters.
So now, when they’re playing in the dirt and say “I’m hungry” I can just say go get yourself something to eat. AND THEY DO. My dad has been saying for years that it was a pretty good day when us kids could dress ourselves. Yes it is.
The last big difference this year is the cat who is no longer here. We lost our good cat in the early fall and I haven’t missed him terribly, until this first day in the garden. He was always there, but especially on this day of warm dirt and new sun. He had absolutely no hunting skills and a big, big heart. He just wanted to be near his people, or in a sunny spot and if he could do both at the same time he was content. The other two cats are hunters and lurkers who hide in the bushes and leave chipmunk organs on the front step. They are just as likely to poop in the garden as they are to sit in it and keep me company.
So, what am I trying to say? That between the growing independence of my children and the natural behavior of my house cats, I’m alone in the garden this spring. And it is surprisingly really, really nice.