I sat at the mosaic patio table from years past.
I remembered the day I had wheeled in the surprisingly heavy, wrought iron mosaic table and two chairs. I wondered if the hubs would notice them when he returned home from work. Placed beneath the large tree in our starter home, I imagined a garden growing.
The month was March and we had just settled in; the seed starter kits growing heartily. In December 1998 we had just returned to our home state, after three years at various military installations in the Deep South. In January, in our one room apartment, I had planted seeds in starter kits in anticipation of finally putting roots down. We had looked, in earnest, to purchase our first home.
This patio table and chairs, from 1999, have moved with us for seventeen years.
Transplanted to the present, I looked at our backyard; the weeds overtaking everything and the lack of care evident. Years ago I couldn’t wait to start a garden; to plant myself somewhere permanent after years of moving every six to nine months. I grabbed my cell and snapped the shot.
Where had I gone wrong?
There was no beauty. Our backyard was neglected. It brought me to the realization that I had found my self-worth in unimportant things, neglecting the one place that is supposed to be my sanctuary; my source of renewal and inspiration. Home. Most days I see the cracked tile and mirror; the dusty curtains and blinds. The clutter began to overtake my bedroom, the clothes shoved into drawers of dressers that would not close. Every few months I de-clutter to make room, but I had never set foot in our backyard; overwhelmed within the four walls of my home.
It was time to engage; to live the life I have because it is limited and I’ve become complacent in it. My in-laws, visiting at work, stated that our kids were our hobbies. We didn’t have time for anything or anyone else.
My pursuits have been invested in my children but I have forgotten to invest in myself.
I sat in the sun with my coffee, remembering the gardens of years past and the very first day I sat on this patio set. We had planted our seeds, transplanted flowers and grew vegetable gardens. Many days I would spread a blanket out on the grass, my first son in my arms, pointing at clouds in the sky. The ears of corn would occasionally block my vision, and I happily would photograph the progress of our garden to my husband, half-a-world away. I journalled the growth of the plants in the five month growing season, with my young son alongside; the small green seedlings soon towering over his infant body.
I looked up at the sky, once again. The gardener within was awakening.
I detoured into the home improvement store that is next door to the wholesale warehouse of all goods imaginable. I gazed at patio sets, globe garden lights and brightly colored patio decor. The pillow caught my eye and I imagined it in my bedroom amidst the rich hues of burgundy aka Dutch Boy’s Hawaiian cinder. Thirty minutes later, cushion in-hand, I squinted in the afternoon light and walked back to my car.
For two days I pulled weeds from the ground; the exertion relieving the stress and demands life always brings. The insidious weeds completely filled my green waste trash container and the slate was clear; ready to be planted anew.
I’m feeling the pull of spring; to move forward. To progress.
I envisioned dewy flowers and vegetables; gently swaying in the early rays of the morning. I sneezed as I shoveled weeds taller than my 5 ft. and 3/4 in. frame; the prickly stalks causing me to itch. I leaned heavily upon the hoe; my knees tweaking in protest. Amidst my discomfort in the waning sun and elongated shadows of dusk, I appreciated the stark beauty in open and empty spaces; ripe for new endeavors and growth. Uncrowded by weeds I could plant myself firmly to the moment, breathing deeply. I found my place within my own space once again.
I pondered the thoughts of my in-laws, thinking of my own childhood. What was wrong with investing time in parenting? My own parents were uninvolved in my extra-curriculars but allowed me to pursue them. They had been proud of my accomplishments. Recently I found myself explaining to a dear friend, WHY, I had always known I would be an involved parent when I had children of my own. This had been a surprise to my friends and family; that I had changed my path from career to motherhood. I had naively stated, to my boss, that I would be back four weeks after delivery and had lined-up daycare for my soon-to-be infant son. It was all planned out.
It had been hard to return to the dream job I held at the time of my eldest’s birth; the co-workers like sisters. After various job transitions and moves, I had planted myself in a job that utilized my life experience, education and strengths. I had it all!
Three months later, after learning of another impending deployment for my hubs, I left this position and began my auspicious beginning into motherhood. There was no manual and I ravenously read parenting books to teach me anything I could glean; joining Mommy and Me classes at the local hospital for guidance. My own mother had begun to show symptoms of decline. It would only be three years later, upon her death from other causes, that she would officially be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; the field of study I had pursued.
My sons usurped all of my time and, to my surprise and guilt, I enjoyed it. As I planted gardens I realized I was also growing children; my newfound pursuit. It would be my job to feed their bodies, water them with faith and try to be the sun in their worlds; providing warmth and love. I would weed out the unsavory things and carry the spade; protective of my seedlings and ready to extricate anything obstructing their growth . I had spent many hours sitting at the mosaic patio table watching my seedlings grow.
In this season of life my sons are as tall as the corn stalks; two of them towering over me and the third rapidly catching up. In the busyness of life I stopped tilling the soil and had no time to put in a garden. But the trees we had planted six years ago continue to grow; even through a statewide drought. I do not water them yet they still bear fruit; hopeful that my sons are like these trees. As they grow older there is less physical labor and more mental work. The weeds are ever present and I’ve not done my due diligence in keeping the field open and fertile. Instead, I’ve allowed it to crowd my time and space. Renewal and inspiration cannot grow here.
To be the sun for my sons I am learning to sacrifice time; to take care of myself so that I can be a better mother to these boys.
The smell of chlorine fills my nostrils as the pool water clears. The cluttered plastic chairs are stacked and put away. The empty space beckons.