“Wow!” He was amazed at the vegetable plants I was showing him. “When did you do all this?”
I was showing off my garden to my cousin-in-law as we waited for his wife to meet us for dinner. He’s good company, always polite and thoughtful, one of those people whose picture would be in Webster next to “nice guy.” He’s also a physician and so we often enjoy sharing medical stories we collect at work.
I pointed out each plant, telling him which ones we started from seed (the carrots, the basil and the tomatoes, though the latter two were gifted to us by a friend who started them from seeds) and which ones were seedling transplants (the rest- the squash, cauliflower, potatoes, peppers, onions and beans). I felt a little embarrassed because the squash plants were yellowed and scrawny. I would have removed them had not a huge yellow bulb been growing at the end of the dead-looking vine.
Otherwise, it was a nice looking garden. It sat in a 8 x 12 foot patch, along our driveway, partially shaded by a tall, voluminous tree. Tall metal green posts lined it holding up black deer netting, giving the space an almost crib-like feel. Six rows of vegetables ran perpendicular to the driveway, each separated by rows of small rocks, cataloging the burgeoning plants.
I guided him around the corner of the garden to show him the side. The grass had a bit of a dip, putting the garden on the slightest slant. There on the side, piled on top of each other, were multiple fifty pound rocks stacked into a makeshift wall. For three and four hour spurts, I used to sit in the dirt that would become my garden and dig with a spade, then a a shovel, then a pitchfork until I unearthed all the stones and mini-boulders that the Connecticut soil was secretly holding. At the end of each day, the pile of rocks would grow and I had physical evidence of what I did each day. My arms would ache, my back would by angry and my shoulders would spot a few new freckles as reminders of the hard labor I had put in. It was a good mental distraction from the thoughts that consumed me at the time.
“I dug them each up.”
I smiled as I saw him take in my handiwork.
“You dug them up? Yourself?”
“When did you do all this?” he asked again.
“While I was grieving.”
We wandered over to my flower garden. Like many bereaved mothers I know, I have a spot in my backyard dedicated to my dead child. I had wanted to put a garden by the white decorative fence ever since we moved in a year ago, but didn’t know what I wanted there. Now a lilac bush, a gift from my midwives, sat in the center. Salvia, peonies and other perennials surrounded it with buckets of colorful annuals interspersed between them. A small hand painted sign marked the edge, announcing “Mabel’s Garden,” a Mother’s Day gift from Chris.
“Wow! You did all this too? When?”
“While I was grieving…”