City Girl In The Country

On this episode of City Girl In the Country, the Dunham Family built their mother a garden for Mother’s Day.  When I, Mother, arrived home and saw this (without the descriptive sign),

I thought perhaps husband had bought a tiger.  He lovingly described his intention, “You’ve always wanted a garden.  I thought it would be a great present.”  And it was.  The most thoughtful and ambitious one yet.  And yes, I’ve long held images of me preparing a wholesome organic dinner with fresh ingredients from a garden planted, cared for, and harvested by yours truly.  But dreams and reality are very different beasts.  What  do I, a vested city girl, know about gardening?

Stifling my panic and premature thoughts of failure, I smiled at husband through clenched teeth.  Poor thing, he looked so enthusiastic and optimistic.

He may have conveniently forgotten my history of city-girl-itis.  There was the time nature boy husband was away on business and I found the ugliest little animal swimming in our pool.  With its matted grey hair, absent eyes, and what appeared to be a ‘sucker’ for a nose, it resembled a mutated mouse.

Convinced that this unfortunate creature had been exposed to hazardous chemicals hidden in my yard, I  scooped it into a bucket and marched it to the bus stop for show and tell. A country neighbor – without the courtesy to stifle his amusement – set me straight, informing me that this mutation was, in fact, a common mole.  Scraping for self-respect, I argued that it didn’t look like any cute picture of a mole I’d seen in my childhood books.  And we most certainly did not see these in the city.  Hmph.

Then there’s the time husband took me to Maine for the first time.  We sat on a deck lined with red flowers.  A hummingbird (an exotic bird by city-girl standards) appeared from nowhere and stopped to suck nectar from the flowers.  I exclaimed, “Oh, look how cute!  She thinks the flowers are a hummingbird feeder!”

Several seconds of stunned silence followed when husband realized that his Summa Cum Laude wife was serious.  Gently and slowly, as if I might be having a stroke, husband asked, “Honey, which do you think came first?  Hummingbird feeders or  flowers?”  Recognizing my grave error, I chuckled nervously and left to make a sandwich.  You can take the girl out of the city, but….

It’s been several years since I’ve moved out of the city.  I now understand the difference between septic and sewer and why we have no well water when the electricity goes out.  (Which it does on a ridiculously predictable basis in the woods.) Yes, I’ve adjusted to the country  life.  But the city is in me.  Gardening is not.

I don’t think husband should have been shocked when he had to instruct me to cut the broccoli – which had grown without my help, by the way.  (I love a self-sufficient plant.)  When I argued that I couldn’t find a pair of scissors, husband retrieved the kitchen shears and said, “Use these.”  Too quickly I protested, “But those are for food.”  Husband shouted, “AND WHAT DO YOU THINK BROCCOLI IS?!”  Oops.

Husband carried on for a long while about city brains and packaged food and grocery stores and cold eggs.  Geez, it’s not like I’ve ever claimed to be Farmer Brown or anything.  Cut me some slack.

Out I went in search of broccoli.  And I returned, proudly, with this:

My very first crop.  (Pause for admiration.)

I held that broccoli high, like a trophy.  I couldn’t have been more proud if it had sprouted from my own ears.  I’ve incubated, birthed, and raised three children, but this…the growing of a vegetable…this is a miracle.

After admiring the broccoli as a centerpiece in the kitchen all day, I did eventually cook it.  Eight year old daughter deemed it ‘Not as good as store-bought.  But you’ll get there, Mom.’

Yes, darling, I think I will.  There’s hope for me yet.  Though I doubt the producers of this life of mine will be cancelling the longest-running sit-com in history any time soon.

A Female Prerogative

If I had a dime for every time someone has described my little girl as ‘sweet,’ I’d be able to pay for her college tuition.  She owns sweetness.  But there are moments when sweet turns salty.

Return with me to a scene in my kitchen seven months ago….Eight year old daughter is throwing a tantrum worthy of a Terrible Two.  She slings accusations of treason, threats of mutiny, and plenty of parent bashing.  My crime: signing her up to play fall Lacrosse.  By the magnitude of her reaction, you’d think I’d told her she was committed to prison or to an orphange.

In my most delicate and patient Mama voice, I reminded Miss Sweetness that I signed her up for this session months before – when she was enjoying lacrosse.  “But I DON’T love it now and I WON’T do it and you CAN’T make me and….” screamed the angel with her halo on fire.  The tension escalated when I told her definitively that she would be honoring her committment to the team – i.e. I’m not throwing away hundreds of dollars in fees.  BUT, no worries, Peach, I wouldn’t think of signing you up again after this season.  You’ve made your wishes clear.

Periodically, the tantrums replayed themselves.  Each time, husband facetiously pointed out, “We’re gonna miss this.”  When emails reminded me to sign up for the upcoming lacrosse season, I confidently hit delete, delete, delete.

Enter Peach on the opening day of Spring lacrosse.  “Mom?  I was talking to my friends today and decided I want to play lacrosse.”

Silence.

More silence.

I was livid.  And speechless – which turns out to be a very lucky (and uncommon) thing.  Lucky because I’m certain I would have regretted a word or two.  Visualize me, if you will, a cartoon character – face beet red, steam shooting out of its ears.  A multi-dimensional “Oh?!#$%” escapes my lips.  “Yes,” she replied guiltlessly.  “And I’ll need a new mouthguard and shorts.”  Off she skipped, blissfully ignorant of the fury rising within me.  Admidst the brew of poisonous thoughts in my head, a glimmer of admiration popped up.  Imagine, after what she put me through, she has the nerve to declare that she simply ‘has changed her mind.’

How frequently I’ve commiserated with girlfriends who refuse to change their mind or admit a wrong choice for fear of inconveniencing or angering another.  Why, and when, do we lose the courage to speak our truth without fretting over what others will think?  Might it be best, then, to honor this courage in a young girl instead of stamping out the fire with a vengeful reaction?

I coach myself against the desire to make my little tigress suffer in kind for previous infringements on my sanity.  Still, I reach deep in my pockets for a reason to deny  her new whim.  I even consider how she will compensate me for the late fee I’ll incur.  (I can hear Yoda assessing me, ‘The need for justice is strong in this one.’ )

Failing to justify the need to reap revenge for revenge’s sake, I return to the fact that my daughter is just 8.  I can’t hold that against her.   In fact, I can learn from her.  I just hope I can muster her level of courage when I need it.  If I’ve made a committment to you, be forewarned, I may change my mind simply for the practice.

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