Driving Me Crazy

driverLong ago, husband and I determined that, whenever possible, the job of teaching our children would be delegated to professionals.  It’s not that we lack skills, but rather patience.  After several episodes of family meltdown on ski slopes, ice rinks, and swimming pools, we raised the white flag.  Better to preserve an amicable family dynamic than risk damage to our relationships over the breast stroke.  Our plan cost us thousands of dollars but saved us the possibility of nervous breakdowns or homicide.

Fast forward sixteen years to the opening chapter of Driver’s Ed.  I was shocked, but delighted, to pay close to $1000 for Principessa to learn all things car from the local school.  In a convenient memory lapse, I convinced myself that her twelve hours with the instructor would magically spare me many more hours of grief.  I know, naivete has no limits.

It turns out that the driving instructor was a handsome 20-something who apparently thought that my daughter’s driving was so perfect, he could catch up on texting whilst she experimented with her own rules of the road.  I could have complained, but truth be told, I knew it would take more than twelve hours behind the wheel no matter who sat beside her.

I was duly panicked to take the passenger seat but husband jumped in with his signature, ‘It’ll be fine’ attitude.  It wasn’t fine.

Six months after receiving her permit Principessa was still unclear about right-of-way and traffic lanes.  She blamed her confusion on the conflicting instruction she had received from husband and me.  Not to mention the way it was delivered – with a healthy dose of yelling.

Poor Principessa – first in line.   All along the way, she has suffered the brunt of our parental inexperience, helping us to carve out rules that would be solidly established by the time her siblings came of age.   They can thank her for the following rules of the road:  no driving with both parents in the car at once, no radio, no eating, no friends, no flip-flops…. Take note, parents.  I give you lessons learned the hard way.

The most helpful tip I can share was created by a desperate and teary-eyed Principessa, “Mom, maybe it would help if you pretended to be someone else.”  What?  You want me not to be your crazed, anxious, white-knuckled mother in the passenger seat?   Genius!  From thence forward, I became ‘Bernard’ (pronounced Bah-naaahd) and Principessa became ‘Barbie’ (prounounced Bahhh-bie).

From the moment we adopted our alter egos with thick Boston accents, the mood in the car transformed.  It’s wondrous that we didn’t crash, so steeped were we in humorous banter.  Barbie and Bernard had a grand time on the road – for the most part.  To say that I became a flawless driving instructor would suggest a level of aplomb beyond my abilities as a quick-tempered Italian.  But I was a vast improvement incognito.

As the License Exam day approached, I found myself afraid that Principessa would fail, thereby extending my tenure as driving instructor.  So we crammed in late night sessions of parallel parking and three-point turns.  She would pass this test, damn it.  My sanity depended on it.

Alas, she did.  I waved goodbye to her on her maiden solo voyage, and recalled a radio advertisement that claims “the first year of a teen’s driving is the most dangerous year of her life.”  What the what?!  I needed that terrifying tidbit like I needed an inflated auto insurance premium.

When Principessa offered to take her siblings on an outing to the beach, I nearly vomited from the thought of losing all three at once in a car crash.   It’s going to take me a while to get used to this and to appreciate the positive aspects of having one less child to shuttle around.  In the meantime, I’m losing sleep and gaining gray hair.  And, despite that, loving it all.

Dog Mirrors

I’ve always wanted a mutt, solely because of the common endorsement that ‘My mutt was the best dog I ever had.’  Of course there are more philanthropic reasons for choosing a rescue dog, but ultimately our decision was made by the fact that our family of five could not agree on a breed.

Husband wanted to enjoy longer than two months of dog-freedom after the passing of Rex.  But the rest of us were impatient, and very convincing with our reasons for jumping back into dog ownership.  Husband accused us of engaging in ‘puppy porn’ which is a fairly accurate description of our addiction to browsing PetFinder.com.

Principessa and I would fall in love anew every day and casually leave photos of glossy-eyed puppies on the family computer for husband to stumble over.  Gradually we wore him down with four-legged cuteness and took his reduction in resistance as a green light to move forward with adoption.  When this irresistible ball of fur jumped out of its crate, husband was sold.

oakley 10.13

It was I who had second thoughts.  We had a two week return policy in case things didn’t work out.  As if.

The following weeks included two trips to the vet, three prescriptions, hypo-allergenic food, and a subscription to pet insurance for a dog who was, well, sick as a dog.  Instead of returning our damaged goods, we became even more attached and protective and committed to dog rehabilitation.  We now have a healthy, energetic, puppy and a few less shoes, rugs, and electrical cords – all lost to the chewing nuisance.

Now, instead of worrying about ill health, we focus on ill behavior.  This, thanks to my passion for discipline.  Husband teases that by the time I’m done with dog training, Oakley will have more diplomas than the rest of the family combined.  Probably true.

On a regular basis, I haul the kids to puppy class and insist on their participation in training for good manners at home.  Principessa approached me with sincere concern that Oakley might be deaf.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because he doesn’t listen to me when I tell him to sit.” she replied.  Oh, my dear daughter.  Oakley is not deaf.  He’s a teenager.

Principessa has also complained that Oakley won’t cuddle with her.  “He’s so ungrateful.  I feed him and play with him and still, he ignores me.”  She could be me, reflecting on her.  The parallels are uncanny.

At a recent dog-training class, Peach and I discussed the common observation that dogs resemble their owners.  We giggled about the shaggy dog with the shaggy-haired woman and the aggressive dog with the angry-faced handler.  Turning the mirror on ourselves, we observed that   10-year old Peach, distracted by so many puppies in one room, had difficulty controlling Oakley’s similarly curious demeanor.

I’d like to say that Oakley is a perfect specimen at my command, thereby reflecting my own composed nature.  But in truth, when I find myself worrying that he is hyper and barky and unfocused, I have to admit that I, too, am off the rails.

Friend asked why, with a typically chaotic family life, I would want to add a dog to the mix?  Despite the ample research on the benefits of pet ownership, it resembles a crazy decision.  True, this.  But at the end of the day, five out of five Dunhams agree that dogs make us better humans.  We are more compassionate, less self-centered beings when caring for a canine.  And more importantly, when our worlds are ablaze with problems we can’t solve, there is always this…

sleeping dog 2

waiting for us at the end of the day.

Letter For New School Year

kindergartenDear Beagle,

It’s the start of another school year and your first year of High School.  Wow!  Remember that first day of kindergarten?  The teachers put you on the bus by mistake when I was planning to pick you up.  We were both so scared. We’ve come a long way since then.

I bet you’re glad to be in the home stretch.  You haven’t always been the biggest fan of school.  But this is IT – the period of time when you’ll gather stories that you’ll share in reminiscent conversations for the rest of your life.  ‘When I was in High School….’

You may love this school year or hate it.  You may have a teacher who doesn’t ‘get’ you, or a friend who breaks your trust.  But you will also cross paths with kind people and brave people and people who appreciate your sense of humor.  Love them all.  Be inspired by every experience – even the ones that make you want to scream.  Because this is real life – a bunch of experiences that make you want to cringe or to celebrate.  All of them are a pile of gifts just waiting to be opened by you.  Life is waiting to see what you’ll do with these gifts.

School might seem like a place that you have to go to.  I get that.  You can’t wait to be done, to be free in the world to make your own choices.  But the truth is, you’re already free.  Each day that you show up for life, you have choices.  You get to choose whether you’re miserable or happy.  You choose to be kind or to be mean.  You choose to do the work that is asked of you or not.  Every choice that you make tells the world who you intend to be.

Dad and I don’t send you to school hoping you’ll be the smartest or funniest or coolest.  We don’t care if you’re picked for a team or invited to parties.  We don’t hope you’ll be the best at anything because we already love you completely.  You can’t earn more of our love or lose any of it.  That’s the way it is.

We send you to school to experience life.  To practice being you in a sea full of people.  To learn how to be brave and disciplined.  To make mistakes and learn to forgive yourself.  To discover your hidden talents and maybe some limitations too.

Take care of yourself this year, Beagle.  And your classmates and teachers too.  You’re all together in this thing called school.  Dad and I are here to support you.  We will always be your biggest fans.

Love,

Mom

Man’s Best Friend, and Woman’s and Children’s

dogAn orphaned four year old dog named Rex meets a longing family who is eager to fill their hearts with a new friend.  They are not worried about the dog’s bad habits, his loud bark, or his boundless energy.  They can see that he is smart and eager to learn.  He responds to their attention with the same vigor as he does to his food bowl.

For eight years, the children and Rex grow up together.  They play together, annoy each other, and rejoice in unison when treats are dispersed.

Rex causes grief, as labs can.  He eats Mom’s flowers, steals pizza out of the hands of children, and swipes roast chicken off tables.  But still he is loved.

Slowly, age catches up to Rex, given away by a limp and and a gray muzzle. Peach remarks that even though he’s old, Rex still enjoys a good squirrel chase.

Until the day he let the squirrel pass without so much as the blink of an eye.  He also stopped noticing, or caring, when visitors entered the house.  And he couldn’t be bothered to get up for dinner.

“It’s time.” Mama said, but even she wasn’t sure.  Is he suffering?  What would he want?

The family waited, maybe too long, to make the decision.  Objective eyes assured them that Rex needed to be freed from his cumbersome body.

So the family made THE appointment.  They smothered him with love those last few days, feeding him previously forbidden treats and giving endless belly rubs. A stepping stone was made in his memory while big tears fell.

Mama holds the empty collar and slack leash, missing the tug at the other end.  Peach plays the blues on the piano, then asks to go shopping – her girlish escape.  Beagle reminisces about the time he convinced Mom to let Rex sleep in his bed.  Rex was the brother he never had.  Husband attempts humor and Principessa just sobs.

Life, in its busyness, tricks us sometimes into believing that pets are just another chore.  But when they leave us, the enormity of their contribution to the family crashes into awareness, leaving a gaping hole.  Life is strangely quiet without Rex.  We are a family minus one – one loud, lovable lab.

City Girl In The Country – With Ticks!

deer_tick_1I’ve come a long way since my first experience with a tick.  There’s no more screaming or thrashing or hyperventilating.  But as I discovered today, I still can’t claim dominion over my faculties when the little buggers are stuck on ME.

I thought I was handling myself well when, while showering at the gym, I found three ticks inhabiting a sensitive region of my body.  Devoid of tweezers, and unwilling to wait the several hours until I returned home, I threw myself together and headed for the drugstore.  Friend happened to call in the process and commented that I was handling myself surprisingly well.  She couldn’t see how fast I was driving.  Anxiety was building.  But I patted myself on the back anyway.  Not bad for a city girl, I thought.

Perhaps the cosmetics cashier wondered what kind of diva runs through CVS on an emergency tweezer purchase, ripping through the packaging on her way to the car.  But she could not have been as perplexed as the woman who watched me peel out of one parking spot near the entrance of the store to a different spot at the far end.  You know, the spots where the employees park and LEAVE THEIR CARS for the day.

Frantic to remove the invading ticks, I dropped my pants and began plucking.  When all three were tossed out the window, I performed another thorough scan of the nether regions of my body to make sure I hadn’t missed any.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I glanced up at the car beside me and saw a man, cup of coffee in hand, jaw dropped and eyes wide.  I froze briefly, matching the surprise on his face.

Contemplating my next move while putting myself back together, I smiled sheepishly and considered introducing myself.  He had just seen me half-naked after all.  Instead, I opted for a casual shoulder shrug and a wave.  Whatever.  I had ticks!

Off I drove to meet husband so we could exchange cars.  Still not convinced that I was tick-free, I asked husband to check my backside.  He refused, siting our location as too public.  Newly desensitized to potential onlookers, I insisted and threw myself prostrate into the back seat of the car with my shirt up.

Alarmed at my lack of decorum, husband tried appeasing me with a perfunctory exam lasting all of one second.  “You’re fine.” He declared.  “I’ll do a check when we get home.”

Are you kidding?  A tick could be infusing me with Lyme Disease by then!  Despite my begging, husband stood firm, which left me thinking….Had this happened in young adulthood, husband would not have hesitated when his wife threw herself in the backseat asking for a bodily examination.  Just sayin’.

A few hours after parting ways, husband phoned in a bit of a huff to report that he had picked up a friend of mine – a hitchhiker.  Excuse me?  A little fellow, he explained.  Tiny, black, crawling up my arm.  Husband detailed a rather frantic encounter with a tick as he tried to remove it while driving on the highway.

Oh, I see.  So you, country boy, had to remove a tick immediately, without even stopping the car, for fear of its consequences.  But when your wife has ticks embedded in her, you tell her to calm down.

Husband reverted to an accusatory defense strategy – something about sabotage and planting ticks in the car.  I admitted to dropping one of the ticks on its way out the window, but let’s not lose sight of the real issue.  Country Boy is a fraud.  Chalk one up for City Girl.

Eddy Out

white-water-rafting-rapids_03I wasn’t at the Boston marathon this year.  Nor was I with my parents in my childhood home in Watertown.  But I watched, along with the rest of the world, a week’s worth of terror on my turf.  I wake each morning since April 15th feeling violated, as if my own home has been robbed.

During this week of evolving tragedy, husband and I checked in with our brood to allow for debriefing.  Nine year old Peach responded with a casual dismissiveness, leaving us to wonder if her detachment from fear was self-protective.  When she emerged from her bedroom in full-blown tears, we assumed it was bombing-related.  Instead we got this:  “Blubby (the goldfish) is dead!”

Stifling a smile, I offered my deepest sympathies.  As words of comfort flowed, it struck me that these same condolences are being uttered throughout our city.  Be it animal or human, when a loved one has passed, we are called to support each other.

I tried to disconnect these two incidents, assigning weight where it was due, but the two were entwined like the two sides of the ‘Best Friends’ necklace that Peach asked me to disentangle.  She wondered about her fish’s passing, “Why me?  Why are brother’s fish still alive?  What did I do wrong?”  To which I replied, “Death is not personal.  It happens to all living things.  It’s part of the deal.”

This detached truth is the tiny light that burns eternal.  Death, illness, loss…they are simply part of the risk of being alive.  We are no more immune to them than we are to joy and abundance.  When we engage in life, we are equally at risk of experiencing overwhelming love as we are at experiencing loss.  Life doesn’t play favorites.  When we try to assign reason to life, it makes us suffer and keeps us stuck in confusion.

At times like these, I am reminded of the instructions given at the start of a white water rafting trip.  If one falls out of the boat:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t try to swim – it’s futile to fight the river
  3. Put your feet up and let the river take you.  It may toss you around, but eventually it will spit you out.
  4. Look for the rescue rope.  Someone will throw it to you.

This week felt a lot like falling out of a boat – again.  There was panic and fear.  We scrambled underwater, searching for terrorists and demanding resolution, trying to stop the hurt and climb back to safety.  At last, the river of life spit us out, heads above water, and we could see hope.  All around us, ropes were thrown – expressions of solidarity and generosity coming from near and far.

I used to marvel at Anne Frank’s famous declaration that, “Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart.”  But now, witnessing the collective response to the Boston bombings, I too, am certain that there is more good in the world than evil.  There are more people trying to save the world than hurt it.

It is certain that life will toss us into the river again and we will lose precious possessions in the process.  But we can also be certain that we will be rescued.  We just need to stay centered, release our resistance, and reach for the ropes.

Boston is eddying-out after negotiating a wicked rapid. It still has a long stretch of river to travel before finding its footing on dry land.  Knowing Boston, it will take on the rest of this river with a vengence.  Then it will climb back in the boats, ready to show the river who’s boss.

How To Be A Parent

babyA young mother-to-be said with despair, “Only three weeks left to figure out how to be a mother!”

Oh, sweet new momma, I am still trying to figure that out fifteen years later.  I don’t mean to scare you, but this is the truth.

You will find your groove, yes, and figure out the basics like which type of diapers you prefer and where to find the sales on baby food.  But even if you become a mother twenty times over, uncertainty will remain.  Because just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the rules change, or the kids change, or you change.

You will make more mistakes than you’re willing to count.  Like, for instance, letting your six year old eat the party favor that you swear is white chocolate but is actually decorative soap.  (Yes, I did that.)

You will realize after several hundred of these foibles that a sense of humor is an essential item to pack in the diaper bag.  And it is precisely these times that earn you a notch in your parenting stick.  These falls from grace won’t guarantee that your next act will be seamless, but they will remind you that you can do the hard job of parenting AND live to tell about it.

If you are a ‘good’ parent you will never enjoy the smugness of certainty.  You will doubt every major and some minor decisions, feel guilty about others, and learn something new every day.  Early on you may learn that you shouldn’t play airplane with a baby who has just eaten lest he spit up in your mouth.  (That was husband, not me.)  Later, you may learn that you are not above ditching your child in a grocery store when she shouts, “Why is that lady so fat?”  And you will be anointed with humility when your little one declares aloud in church, “Mommy, you tooted!”

I wish my gift to you could be a key to the Parenting Answer Box.  But in my heart I know that if there was such a key to be given, it would ruin the whole experience.  If you had all the answers and didn’t crumble in despair once in a while, you’d never know the sweetness of vulnerability.  Just when you think you can’t go on, your little one reaches up to wipe a tear from your eye and says, “I wuv you, Mommy.  Pwease don’t cry.”  Renewed afresh, your heart fills up and you rise from the ashes.

When we stop banging on the door of certainty, demanding reprieve from the worry and fear of parenting, we realize that we are not alone.  Looking around, we find ourselves amidst the stories of millions of parents before us who stood exactly where we now stand, unable to break through the barrier of doubt.

There is no pot of gold at the end of the child-rearing rainbow.  And the treasure is not what you think it is.  It is not an honors student who never got arrested, never sassed his parents, and never skipped out on chores.  Nor is it a perfect parenting record that is envied by your fellow retirees.  The gift is simply this:  THE EXPERIENCE – good, bad, or otherwise.

Some day you will look back and wonder how you survived.  You will also continue to question your choices long after the children are grown.  But with any luck, you will have learned at least, to abandon blame and shame in favor of forgiveness and gratitude.  You dared to take on the title of parent in the name of love, despite your humongous fears, and did the best you could.

Is This Goodbye?

handsDear Child,

We are standing at a crossroad.  Before us are two choices.  The first would keep us on the familiar path we’ve been travelling.  It’s the one on which we walk together, sometimes stopping to notice a wondrous bug or a rainbow, sometimes jumping in puddles or stomping on shadows.  This path is full of adventure that is meant to be shared and we’ve done just that.   We’ve held hands while skipping, chased each other in a game of tag, and collapsed in a heap at the side of the road laughing ourselves silly.  In everything, we’ve been together.

But now, the road is splitting.  I want to stay the course – the familiar one.  You are drawn to the other road.  You assure me it’ll be fun, an adventure like nothing we’ve seen before.  ‘I’ll go first’ you say, for the road is too narrow to walk side-by-side.  You beg and plead for me to drop your hand.  You’re old enough, you declare, to take the lead.  ‘Let me show you the way,’ you suggest.

You want your wings sooner than I’d like you to fly.  Fear tempts me to clip them in order to keep you close just a little while longer.  I even try to guilt you into spending more time with me – a weak move, I know.  Your earnest face reminds me that love does not hold on.  It trusts in the flow.  Real love is able to let go when it’s time.

I have been your human guardian this many years.  Now the time has come to trust the work I’ve done and to let you go on ahead.  It’s time you had your own experiences without being weighed down by my presence.  I will not be your ball and chain.  I will not stifle you.  But I may cry a bit trying to keep these promises.

We used to play that game, remember?  The one where you said, ‘I love you, Mom.’ And I’d reply, ‘I love you more.’  We’d debate back and forth trying to prove who loved whom more.  It was always a stalemate.  You’ve stopped playing that game with me, which makes me think that maybe I do win – that I do love you more than you love me.  Well, even if it’s not true, it feels that way when you barely glance in my direction or refuse to answer my questions with anything other than grunts and groans.  Deep down, beneath my insecurity, I know this is simply the way of it.  The natural evolution.  And you do love me, more than you’re willing to admit aloud.

This is an opportunity to be the kind of mother I can be proud of.  It takes all I have to shut down my protective instincts and loosen my grip on your precious hand.  I know that the moment I let go, you will slip away.

Perhaps you’ll return once in a while to check in.  If I leave the door open, you can pop in from time to time and share a story or two about your new adventure.  I’ll be here, following behind you a pace or two, in case you need me.  I’d follow you anywhere, my child.

Go then, quickly, before I change my mind.  And take my blessing with you.  May you find all that you need and enough of what you want.  And may you never forget that I love you.  More.

Love,

Mom

The Princess, The Witch, and The Door

photo credittruthluvr.blogspot.com

photo credit
truthluvr.blogspot.com

 

For years I’ve been trying to instill in my children the practice of knocking on a door before entering a room.  Two out of three have mastered the skill.  But Principessa, the oldest, struggles with this basic concept despite (or because of) my repetitive instruction and begging.

After a recent infraction, when daughter barged in on me in my bedroom (alone, thank goodness) I snapped.  In response to a reprimand, Principessa defiantly replied, “It’s no big deal, Mom.”

Really?  We’ll see about ‘no big deal.’

The next day, when Principessa was out of the house, I enlisted her brother’s help.  He had just woken at the crack of noontime and wasn’t feeling especially generous until I filled him in on my plan – to remove his sister’s bedroom door.  Suddenly devoid of morning stupor, Beagle popped out of his seat and ran to get the tool box.

When Principessa returned home and entered her doorless room, she, how should I say it?….Freaked Out.  In retrospect, I believe her reaction was a full-blown panic attack.  No privacy, too loud, too bright! Her concerns were numerous.

Principessa demanded that I return her door immediately.  She had ‘gotten the point.’  Silly girl.  Why would I put the door back so soon when I had gone to so much trouble to remove it?  Sorry, Love, lesson is not over.

For two days the family endured Principessa’s ranting.  Gradually, she began knocking on bedroom doors.  Unconvinced of her sincerity, I held out for the rest of the week just to be sure.

I knew it was time to rescind the consequence when Principessa entered the kitchen for a glass of milk.  In a show of the utmost respect, Principessa walked up to the refrigerator and knocked on its door.  “It’s not answering, Mom.  What should I do?”

At last!  We had moved past anger to acceptance and finally to humor.  Lesson complete.

I did the parent victory dance that day.  You know, the one where you celebrate the fact that you’ve managed to teach a lesson without losing your cool or getting sucked into the endless cycle of parent-child power struggle.  You’ve managed to use your grown-up skills without resorting to arguing with irrational young ‘uns.

One week later, Principessa failed (for the millionth time) to turn off her bedroom lights before leaving for the day.  I calmly explained that her next lesson would involve turning off power to her room.  Still smarting from her previous consequence, Principessa snapped to attention with apologies and promises and pleas to spare her the agony.  She knows I mean business.  But I fear that some lessons are best learned the hard way.  And I suspect I’ll be in the basement searching for the right fuse to pull before the end of the week.

Poor Principessa, she’ll probably want to take her door off so she can let in more light from the hallway.

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.

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