I always wanted to be one of those women who had a garden. I envied the them going out in the mornings with their broad brimmed hats and baskets waiting to be filled. There was such a sense of history in that gathering of the food. It seemed almost primal, harkening back to when the men were the hunters and their women the gatherers. I usually thought about these things after passing some woman in her yard early in the morning while I was headed to grab my Starbucks and running, always running. The thoughts stayed with me, or anyway the yearning did.
Only I grew up a feminist. I wanted equality. Wanted…want. I had something to prove. We could do anything they could. I was raising a daughter after all. She deserved to know that her life needn’t be limited as her grandmother’s had been. She could be a judge or a Senator…(maybe not President, or at least not yet) But somewhere along the way I noticed we seemed to be trading the very essence of what it meant to be women. Feminism became a different kind of tyranny; career versus mothering. It wasn’t feminism’s fault, but the frailty of the humans trying it on. We pitted women against women. The intrinsic value of mothering and nurturing our babies could be hired out even to minimum wage workers. Our husbands didn’t have wives; they got partners instead. It was like some sort of modern law firm….different last names, an expense account, and equal billing.
The men too made trades. They got to share in the child raising and this was sweeping and good. But hired help made the homes and take out took over where supper used to be. Boys began to get shifted to some kind of new androgyny. They couldn’t be too loud or rowdy. We invented ADD and they had to learn to sit still. We forgot that those wild little boys used to grow up to be our hunters and our warriors. Desks were a poor substitute for the woods or the farm. Buying your daughter dolls seemed almost irresponsible. She needed to be in team sports to compete in he boardroom. What did you want to raise her to be… barefoot and pregnant?
I am forty-five years old. I have a different last name than my husband. And I am a hunter in our group. Our daughter does think she might want to be a judge. But she plans to raise her own babies. She expects to mother exclusively especially in those early years. Maybe later she can be a mommy lawyer and share a practice that represents women and families. She doesn’t believe that you can have it all. Neither did we. We took turns and we raised our own kids. Day care wasn’t right for our family. I wonder which mommies and whose babies it serves well.
When I was forty we moved to this place where life seemed older. There aren’t any strip malls or subdivisions. The houses are older than the country some of them. And the trees and the mountains are older than everything else. The Internet is spotty up here. Cell phones work on their own schedule. Blackberries are as rare here as chickens in the city.
It is here that I have planted my first garden. We have big fat bushes of basil and last week’s tiny little cartoon shaped peppers will be in salads by the weekend. The broccoli was cut this morning. The tomato plants are already over six feet high and they have hard little green fruit filled with promise. Behind it all there is a row of sunflowers….they are my backstory. They are tall giggly tangible reminders of this middle-aged flowering. It is a time of gathering..of picking up, sorting through, and putting away.
My grandmother, another one of those without so many choices, was a wife and mother. She had a huge vegetable garden and a house filled with flowers from her yard. She used to put up tomatoes, and pickles, beans, and jam. He husband fought in two wars and he made whatever money that she frugally saved. They house was filled with homemade curtains, and birthday cakes were made from scratch. Sunday dinner was at noon and the table sagged from the weight of all that food. My grandfather fished on the weekends and they played pinochle on Saturday night.
I am pro-choice in just about everything. But choice is a funny thing. Give somebody three and they will often make the best wisest choice. Give them thirty though and things get confusing. Nobody would argue for the limitations of the way things were. Only I just wish we could stop arguing for the limitations of the way things are. I am forty-five and I finally have a garden. This fills me up like no deal ever quite has.
My gram used to tell me secrets in her garden. She would always say how lucky I was to be a girl. “You are going to get to have the babies” she would whisper as we poked holes in the lid of a coffee can frog house. “It is a secret. We have to act like it’s a big deal or they will want to do it too and then who will pay the bills when they come due?”
Indeed. I hope my garden gets a whole bunch of frogs….