Sunday, June 4, 2023

Half of the seeds I planted never grew

Squirrels dug up and tossed one of the purple basil plants. And slugs ate the kale. A deer lost from the herd wanders up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, threatening the hostas, barely even blinking when the dog shriek-barks. The weather turns sweltry. I have so many plans for the week,

but in the end, I do nothing, momentarily sideswiped by unexpected health news, which turns out to be a bit of a bummer, but I'm trying to roll with it. 

In the meantime, I laze on the porch swing, escaping into a good book. There is always that. Did I tell you how books saved my life? And how lucky I am now. Surrounded by them. Speaking of

the good book I'm reading. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. From the very first sentence I am hooked and marveling. The voice. The story. A darkness at the core about how this country treats its unwanted children, and even though I know this and wish I could forget it, I can't stop reading. Let me tell you a story.

A harried grandmother comes into the library, three little kids scrambling off in three different directions the moment they all spill through the door. A girl and her two little brothers. The littlest one breaks my heart with his droopy eyes, how he's old enough to talk, but doesn't. How he goes stiff with a tantrum when he doesn't get the plastic train car he wants. How he disappears into the stacks the second the grandmother turns her back. 

The grandparents who visit the library fall into two categories: 

the doting, swooping, gushing, proud

and the worried, rigid, impatient. These are the ones who forgot what it was like to have children of their own or are glad to be through with it, and how greatly relieved they'll be when this visit is over and the grandkids can be handed back off to the parents. 

But there's also a third category. The grandparents who thought their parenting days were over, but now, here they go again, for whatever reason, with these children in their custody. 

The harried grandmother wears a look of continual surprise as she mutters weary reminders to say thank you, to share, to clean up after yourselves. I want to tell her she's doing a good job and it will all turn out okay, but how could I ever know that. 

Instead, I offer the kids stickers. The next time they come in the littlest one remembers and makes a beeline for my desk. He garbles out the word Sticker, and I want to hug him, hug the two other little ones, hug the grandmother. 

I've let go of any hard feelings for the lost deer who will any day now chew my plants down to the dirt. Because, why not. 

The things that seem to matter so very much, in the end, don't. The things you can’t imagine will ever matter, do. 

A reminder to myself: half of the seeds I planted grew.


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