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Spring and children, eternal cycles of renewal

March 20, 2012

Spring and children – eternal cycles of renewal

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette


Talk of spring has made our daughter Zoe’s green thumb itch.

So we turned our attention to planning our gardens. We sketched a map of our yard, including the five garden plots, noting ways we plan to use each space, and made a list of the types of flowers and vegetables we will grow.

Each night, after story time, as we lie in the darkness of her purple-walled, hot cocoa-carpeted room, Zoe narrates our garden plans.

“We will plant tomatoes, peppers and basil by the driveway because they like it warm and sunny. Zoe and Daddy will plant the tomatoes. Adam will plant peppers with Daddy. Who will plant the basil, Daddy? I’ll plant impatiens and marigolds by the street, with Mama.” She lays out the entire season, night after night, her enthusiasm unabated by repetition.

On a cold February morning, list in hand, we headed to a garden supply store. As Zoe and I sorted through compostable seed trays, calculating the number of starts our plan requires, little brother Adam decorated the aisles with colored pots, which, moments before, had been neatly stacked in tight-fitting rows.

While I stared blankly at the multiple rows of seed packets, Zoe and Adam delighted themselves by randomly pulling dozens of packets off the racks. The clerk, all too familiar with this scene, offered the kids coloring books filled with pictures of local wild birds. This bought me just enough time to get through the check-out line.

Our trip left Zoe practically bouncing out of her car seat as we headed home. Adam set his eyes on the road ahead, on the lookout for trucks and diggers. Passing farm fields, I let my mind wander.

“Looking at a freshly tilled field; it’s just like everything is beginning, again. It’s a beautiful sight,” I hear my late grandmother Ruth’s voice say.

She told me of her childhood home, surrounded by fields, where she played outside all day, climbing trees from one end of the block to the next without having to touch the ground, and where she gardened with her father, who died well before my birth.

When we got home, Zoe raced through her lunch and headed off to her room for rest time. Adam and I settled in for his nap. Before an hour passed, I heard Zoe’s voice from down the hall. “Daddy, is it time?”

In the kitchen, sitting on footstools around the kids’ table, we used serving spoons to pack potting soil into seed trays. We carefully inserted the dull point of a No. 2 pencil into the soil, making holes to the proper depth. We found a rhythm: As I set the holes, Zoe would drop in the seeds.

With the first tray complete, we placed it on a dresser in front of our living room’s south-facing window. Zoe beamed at our handiwork as she sprayed it with a fine mist of water. Looking at her, I see myself in the living room of my childhood home, nearly 40 years ago, proudly watering the vegetable seeds I had planted with my father.

Like the freshly tilled fields of spring, we fathers and mothers are part of something greater than ourselves.

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