Friday, August 22, 2008

Gardening at Night

"I think you left a diaper at playgroup," my friend said, offering to drop off the stinky yellow Fuzzi Bunz a few hours later. Now sporting a white diaper and blue Crocs, my son accompanied me outside when she drove up and, after she pulled away, he insisted on going to the end of the street in search of the neighbor's cat.

After initially turning him down because dinner was almost ready, I decided some outside time after a late nap was a good idea. But as we too frequently meet neighbors while in varying states of undress, I insisted we first go inside to slip on some toddler shorts. I asked my husband if he wanted to join, which I immediately re-heard through my son's mouth: "Do you want to come with us, Daddy?" We all ventured out into Friday night dusk in search of felines, but somehow we got fixated on the ground instead. "We could weed," I offered, having lamented just that morning how I was almost as overwhelmed with the overgrown yard as I am with our overcluttered house.

So we all started crouching down, pulling up the tall grass that seems to be loving our drought, cracked earth and all. It wouldn't look so bad if we hadn't actually gotten landscaping done that makes it obvious it's not purposeful filler among the more manicured liriope. We probably did a decent job with some but just did damage control with others that will grow back.

There's still plenty to do, but what we did in 10 minutes made a big difference to our eyes. And in the process, we got to breathe still warm but non-conditioned air, talk about roots, and listen to cicadas, a word my son now knows at age two that I don't think I knew until I was twenty-one. My husband told me a story about he and E seeing a cicada up close at the park the other day; its clumsy flight as it left a leaf almost slamming it into their heads before it caught its breath and lifted up and away. That's an image I might never have owned if we hadn't gone out tonight.

Always a resister to seriously setting a routine, I wondered how much less out of control -- and more connected to each other -- we'd feel if we did ten minutes of weeding every Friday night. We spend so much time in tag-team mode, with one parent playing with the kid while the other cooks or cleans. As a result, our son misses out on some basic, work-oriented family time where we all just undertake a task together. It may be that he is only now ready to participate and have much patience in yardwork and housework, but my husband and I have been stuck believing we are more restricted than we actually are -- as parents, as owners of a small house with too much stuff, and certainly as people who just don't have enough time.

While I snapped this photo, the cat let my son touch his ear for the first time.

Sometimes it takes a stupid thing like a forgotten diaper to get our heads out of our butts.

See R.E.M singing "Gardening at Night" on YouTube

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