April 11, 2013

Lettuce Rising...and Me, Too

Last evening in the garden, I scraped back the straw and found the first stirrings of the lettuce seeds I planted 10 days ago.

I felt an immediate and oh so primal rush of emotion.Two emotions, actually. And today, because I am nothing if not emotional overkill,I am thinking about how bizarre these feelings are.

First, I felt excitement.YES, YES  there WILL be wonderful salad this spring... romaine and mesclun and some weirdlings called "tennis ball lettuce" that came from a visit to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello a few years back.

That was ridiculous enough because this is 2013 in metropolitan Philadelphia.So it is not as if there will be No Salad on the Homestead This Spring if the seeds stayed below ground. Or, for that matter, if they stayed in the package or even back at Monticello.

My second feeling was pride.Yep, pride.I beamed down on their little green heads like they had just gotten the lead in the 5th grade play. But I had not taught these little seedlings to read, I had not nursed them through stomach viruses  and head lice, I had not given them years of Unconditional Love.  I ripped open a package, hurled them onto the soil, covered them with 1/4 inch of dirt/rock and then buried them beneath straw so disgusting that the farmer wondered why I would even give her money for it.  

Oh, and I forgot to water them.

Yet, somehow, I felt proud of their existence. Of their conception. Now, conception has been sort of a sore subject for me since my so-called "childbearing years" were anything but that. I've chronicled my descent into infertility elsewhere.  Even though adoption brought me into double-barrelled motherhood (see vomiting and head lice, above) I have always kept my sorrow at missing out on experiencing pregnancy, delivery, nursing buried beneath a, well, a layer of moldy straw. Last evening, in the pink of the first warm sunset in months, I pulled that straw back, too.  

And you know what? There was nothing there. I couldn't find an ache. I couldn't evoke a tear. Wow. It only took 30 years, but there was not even the slightest trace of a scar.  Or perhaps the other scars --you know, the ones you get from that tiny part of parenting that starts AFTER birth, from failing eyesight and creaky knees, from just Living in This World--those scars have left bigger marks.

Who knows.  It doesn't matter. So much of what I let define me for decades...just doesn't matter anymore. Which leaves me free to feel magic where there once was straw. I wish I could jump up and down and tell all the 20 somethings in my life to exhale, to assure them that it will all be all right in whatever form it takes. But if they were truly able to hear that, why, they wouldn't be 20 something, would they? 

I'm going back to the garden, where I can just be amazed. And excited. And proud. Because gardening is just this thing that evokes those kind of emotions, especially in an era and a place on the planet where the successes and failures are not life-threatening. Perhaps because it offers connection with forces much bigger than our own lives and the sight of a seedling is proof of connection made?

I'll keep you posted about my little darlings.


  1. loving all the feisty blood flowing juiciness of spring from you folk in the North Countries as we start letting go with the autumn leaves here in the Land Down Under & by gosh you can write!

  2. oh thanks, Mo....makes up for not being able to draw. Yes, we here in the Northeast are frantic in our need not so much for spring but for the end of Darkness, Cold, and Very Angry Things hurling down from our skies.

  3. hi Julie, I have just read your article A Longing for Children and am deeply touched by your desription of what it was like for you not being able to conceive, carry and give birth to your own children.
    Up until I was about 25 I didn't see myself as mother-material and it was only after I met my now husband at the age of 28 I could see myself wanting to become a mother. By the time I was 32 and we had been together a few years, my body told me I needed to become a mother, it was almost as if I had no choice in the matter, it was a very physical, emotional urge. We were lucky: we have two boys of 'our own'; carrying them and giving birth to them was life changing for me, I am a tigress when it comes to them (our youngest gave me a self made poem a few years ago describing me as such)
    I remember you introducing yourself in the What If diaries mentioning your daughter taking your picture and how extremely happy you were in that moment. So you too have become a mother, I think what I'm trying to say is that becoming a mother may start at a certain moment, conception, adoption, the dream of having a child, but staying the mother for your child is what matters even more, being there through the good times and the bad. Sharing your life with children, well I don't have to explain that to you, is magical and awful and normal and not so normal...it matters.

    1. ....and what I also wanted to say was how incredible that you thought you were still carrying a burden that you'ld already let go of without realizing it; and how happy I am for you to feel this freedom now and realizing that!

    2. Yeah, my kids still refer to me as the She Bear. And yes, I got all the mama'ing any biolgical mother does and even had my own unique version of labor and delivery (first adoption took 9 months from conceiving the idea till holding the baby!) Now,at age 58 and still a great mom, it seems incredible that not only do I not define myself by my infertility but I see myself as things besides a mother!

    3. .....besides being a mother, amen to that! I do wonder where is the 'me-part' at times, instead of the 'we-world'.
      I think that is part of the reason why here-in-blogland and in the What If diaries are so important to me.