The leaves on our birch have unfurled themselves (on May 6–I won the bet) and the tomato seedlings we started so many weeks ago are now in the garden. The evening sun warms our yard until about eight o’clock and we hear disc-golf players in the park long after. Last night, looking past my patch of dirt and into the green space beyond drenched with evening light and shadows I asked Stan, “Doesn’t it feel like we’re on a Hollywood set?” The temperature was perfect and there were no mosquitoes. Feet planted firmly on the scaffolding, arms stuffing insulation in the attic, and head hidden by rafters, he didn’t answer. Underneath where he worked, long grass smothered ripped up soffit and fascia, rusty nails, and construction debris. Maybe he didn’t feel like much of a celebrity, having gotten up for work at 4:30 am then returning home to spend his last waking hours with our roof.
Last Sunday felt a bit Hollywood-ish too. Not in a glitzy way exactly, but in a mud-between-the-toes, walleye-sizzling-over-the-fire way. Being in the middle of nowhere with friends, lake-swimming, and piling fishing poles, chips, and kids into a jeep is just about as perfect as Beverly Hills…
Vivi is getting bigger each day. Literally. I know this because she waits for the girls to get off the bus at the living room window where the changes can be measured easily. One day just her eyes peeked over; the next, it was her nose; now Belén and Susanna can see her huge four-tooth grin while she clings to the sill with her stubby fingers. As she grows she’s becoming more of a force to reckon with. I’m not sure if it’s all the touching, tickling and cuddling she gets at home, but she seems to intimidate other children with her intensity. I tried to explain to the two-year-old, who cowered behind her mom’s leg yesterday, that Vivian was more like a puppy than a baby, but it didn’t help. Vivi clambered closer, unleashing her zeal, while the toddler broke down in tears (which wasn’t the first time this has happened). Afterward, I reported on her social skills at the dinner table and her sisters lectured her on “how to get people to like you” and personal space. We’ll see if she learned her lesson.
I didn’t think I’d plant a garden this year. The weeds that grew up some time between my 38th week of pregnancy and Vivi’s umbilical cord drying up, puffing their seedy heads into the wind, seemed unbeatable last year. But the month of May brings hope. Like a mother who can’t quite remember what labour is really like, I’ve decided to try again. It can’t be that bad, right? Only I’m not birthing a new crop, I’m just the midwife; transplanting calendula so it can buddy up with tomatoes, thinning fall-seeded butterhead lettuce in hopes of crunchy heads, scavenging branches to trellis sugar snap peas, and forcing everyone to eat asparagus. Every year I like to try something new. Last year it was the beautiful orca beans Bonnie gave me. This year it’s anise, a feathery herb grown for its seed that looks like cilantro. While living in Bolivia my neighbours encouraged me to drink anise tea to fix my broken stomach. It didn’t help, since I was eating bread along with the tea, but I am looking forward to trying it again–this time without the wheat.
The midwifery image is accurate but perhaps more poetic than reality. In truth, the garden is one more thing on my to-do list that doesn’t ever seem to get shorter. With Vivi crawling everywhere, house renovations, and stomachs that need to get filled three times a day–yes, that’s three times a day!–I feel as if I’m drowning. I really start thrashing when I look at the lemon balm drying up in their plastic greenhouse containers, the cucumber seeds on the counter, the dandelions overtaking our lawn, the plywood I said I would cut for Stan, the sawdust we drag through our house, the sticky mess in the fridge drawer, the pile of clothes on my nightstand mixed with bills, receipts and mother’s day cards, and the list of people to whom I casually mentioned coming over for a drink or a meal. Then, something catches my attention and I quit splashing. Some call this gaining perspective, I call it the work of the Holy Spirit.
I talk to my mom and she tells me the flea beetle is damaging Tim’s canola. I also remember the lady from church whose daughter committed suicide. But it’s not only the bad things, it’s also bigger things. Beyond-my-doorstep things. Like Joey and Anissa preparing to take their family to Africa for the summer, instead of booking campsites. It’s Alden and Aida moving back from Nicaragua and finding new jobs in Canada. It’s Janelle and Ryan adopting the baby boy they’ve waited for for so many years. Remembering these things doesn’t shorten my to-do list; I still feel like I’m drowning, only now I know it’s a puddle. To breathe all I need to do is lift my head up from time to time.
Looking up, if only for a quick breath,