Gardening has consumed our weekend. Even when we went to our friends' houses, we talked about what is blooming, what sort of shrub is that, how to best prune lilacs (pick them!). We shoveled compost and dirt, built raised beds, planted seedlings nurtured for a month, transplanted potted plants.
There's lots to know and easily learn about how to grow plants. What's more mysterious is the realtionships we share.
My friend Tatiana, a brilliant mathematician, talks about her excitement at solving a problem. She flies to Maryland on a moment's notice to work all day with a colleague, then flies back at the end of the day. What is most occupying her marvellous mind is her three year old daughter, who cried when she and her dad left dropped Tania at the airport. "You can have a brilliant career or a family," she says, "I have made my choice. I missed Tasha."
My friend Salima and I talk of having more children. I wish Benjamin had a sibling, but I don't think I am up to it. Salima has two. "Your life is over when you have children," she says. She is a physician, who became a stay at home mom. "Yet, the next generation is what we are here for, to guide them and grow them." I ask her if she would have another child, she's just 40. "No, the middle child becomes invisible, I think."
I am a middle child. I spent so much time in my family trying not to be noticed, I know what she means. Whenever the spotlight of attention was on me, it was never good. To this day, when someone asks to speak to me, I expect the worst. I led a charmed childhood, disappearing for days on end on horseback, playing in the woods at the end of Spruce Drive, pretending I was no longer a daughter, a child, but a mother to my youngest sister. Now, when my family argues, my greatest fear is that I, and they, will disappear after that last cruelty one of us spews.
A man who lives in our building, who always washes clothes early Sunday morning as we do, is moving. I stop the car in the driveway as he is loading his truck. "Are you moving?" I ask. "Yes, he says, "I just can't handle the heat surcharge, and noone will negotiate." We chat briefly about the wretched new management company. He looks at the pavement. "I will miss," he says, raising his head to look me in the eyes, "everyone. I have lived here ten years." I do not even know his name. I have lived here two years.
My neighbor Chun comes outside with her son, August. She has a lovely white sun hat on, and I tell her I love it. "I am sensitive to the sun," she says, as August wheels his trike away from her.
We are invited for brats and salad to our friend's the Marshes. Kristin worries endlessly about her weight and fitness. I am sure she weighs half of what I weigh. Neil taunts her about the brats, about her "diet," about the umbrella she hasn't removed the tag from. He wanders in an out while my Benjamin and their Oliver and Alexander play. "Whenever I feel like Neil doesn't pull his wieght," she says, looking directly at me, "I think of you. Your being single, truly alone, grounds me, and I am grateful."
I am grateful for the ghosts who brought me into being. My family, flawed like any other, and my mistakes, as gruesome as any, have made me who I am. I am blessed to have a son, to love and cherish, and friends to confide in and relish.
Happy Memorial Day.