Saturday I did my annual planting. We live in a condo with a postage stamp sized front yard and lots of hosta. No fuss, no muss. Hosta fulfills my housewife mantra: minimum imput, maximum output. Hosta shows that you care, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time caring, except it looks like you care a lot. Perfect.
So while I don’t really have to worry about the yard, I do have to actually think about my planters. I have sixteen feet of containers to fill along my deck. The deck is right outside our dining room, so it features prominently in our home. There is nothing more depressing than empty planters in July. That’s not true. Empty planters with last year’s dead plants would be worse.
So every year I plant.
Here’s the breakdown: I like to shop for plants. I like to design where they will go, and yes, what the theme of the planting season will be: botanical, traditional, grassy. Yes, I have planting themes. Shut up. I like to water them right after planting. Job well done, and all. I don’t like to do the actual planting. It’s a little like torture. More accurately, it’s like work. Ugh. I work enough, right? Do I really want to make more work for myself? NO. Work defies that already stated housewife mantra: minimum imput, maximum output.
This year was no exception. The family went together to the nursery. Mary Tyler Son behaved beautifully, fascinated by the sensitive plant. Little Scientist in the making, that one. We were back home by ten and unloaded the plants and soil. Mary Tyler Dad took the little one to the park to give me some time to plant. Hooray! Yeah, not so much.
All those plants and soil and empty planters overwhelmed me. I puttered a little, but within minutes I was sitting inside watching The Real World San Diego. Ugh. Insufferable, self-righteous, ignorant youth were somehow more palatable than planting.
I gave it another shot after one episode. I brought music with me this time. It annoyed the neighbors two floors up, which thrilled me, as those neighbors are really annoying. This time I had more fun dancing than planting. I mean, how can you not have the moves like Jagger when you’re holding a trowel? And all apologies to the new next door neighbors whose dining room looks onto our deck. My only hope is that when you look upon the lovely plants you aren’t scarred by the memory of me getting my groove on in a really unfortunate way.
I retreated back inside for more Real World, as my real world was too much for me in that instant. It struck me that planting reminds me of the changing of the seasons, the passing of time. This is three plantings since Donna died. Seasons are how I often mark how long it has been since Donna left us.
Something about planting those plants was making me want to hide under the blankets, drowning my sorrow in Coke and chocolate. A task that should have taken two hours ended up taking nine. Nine hours to plant six containers. Pathetic.
This is life in grief. Not every day, but on some days, every single thing I do is work. Showering = work. Dressing = work. Deciding what to eat for lunch = work. Going to the bathroom = work. Changing into pajamas = work. It is so much easier to watch others struggle with their lives rather than struggle with my own. The Real World and Real Housewives franchises were made for grieving mothers.
But what kind of life is that?
Not a good one. Not a pleasant one. Not a joyful one.
So I got my a$$ in line and planted those plants. Mary Tyler Dad is patient with me. He gives me the time and space I need. The cost benefit ratio is an easy one. Nine hours of slogging misery against four full months of light and life. I look out my bedroom window and see life and growth. I walk through the dining room and see color and hope. Ugh. I wish it weren’t so damn hard to get there, but it is.
Part of why I do what I do, plant those plants, and make those efforts is because of Mary Tyler Son. He deserves no less than Donna. He is no less worthy of a mom who does whatever she can to bring wonder and joy into his life. He is a powerful motivator, my little one. I refuse to let him grow up with an absent, depressed mother. Some days I need more time to get it together, but I do get it together.
Grief sucks. Just like cancer. But just as cancer did not prevent me from mothering, grief is not going to get the best of me either. I will plant those plants, and cook those meals, and fold that laundry. I will fly that kite, and splash in that pool, and bake those cookies.
I am Grieving Mother, hear me roar.