In high school, I would often write on the back of my English papers and tests, “I hate poetry.” It was sort of an inside joke between myself and my English teacher junior year. We did so much poetry that year, and I would argue with her, “Sometimes a river is just a river.” Ugh, the symbolism drove me nuts in all of literature really. I was a math person. There was one right answer. I went on to college and majored in math. I liked it so much, I wanted to teach it. But English, yuck! Whenever I would have these conversations or disagreements with Mrs. Kirkland, she would just giggle, and say “Oh, Sarah, you don’t mean that,” or something like, “You’re so funny Sarah, but you’re also wrong.” She was the coolest, but also knew English was not my first choice.
When I think back to this mindset of a river just being a river and not a symbol for life or something else, I think maybe I just hadn’t lived enough life yet to understand how something can mean so much more than first thought…
I’m still a math person, big fan of working a problem and completing a puzzle, but a respect, and maybe even a love, of symbolism, literature, and writing are all slowly sneaking up on me.
One example from life right now? Our garden. This garden has been soooooo many things to our family over these past few months over and beyond simply just a garden.
We finished building and planting the garden the weekend after Brandon was fired. This was an incredibly difficult time for our family, filled with hurt and anger and lots of questions. While we did not keep it a secret from the kiddos, we tried to be intentional about what we shared with them, we didn’t want them to worry unnecessarily. But they’re smart and intuitive, and I know they could tell it was a heavy time for Brandon and me. I remember vividly that beautiful Sunday afternoon in May, all four of us working on the garden together. Everyone was helping in their own way. We all held boards, helped measure, cut, and screw the raised beds together. We all planted the beds and were eager to check on how the plants were doing each day. At a time when it felt like a piece of our lives had been broken off, been pruned back in an unexpected and painful way, we were finding new growth.
This new growth was astonishing when we saw what it meant for our family.
I don’t think I have to explain that life with a four and 13 year old is arduous at times. Add to that already tough age gap the added layers of difficulties of a biological child and an adopted child and all that means for a particularly strained relationship, it’s hard to find something that both Deandre and Romney Ann are excited about AND can participate in together AND feel like they’re getting special time with Brandon or myself.
Enter stage right: the garden.
From day one, the garden has been such a blessing when it comes to life as a family of 4 and Brandon and I not feeling like we’re being pulled in two different directions or feel like someone is being left out. Just as we planted a variety of plants in our garden, and researched ways to companion plant, the garden provided a space where both Deandre and Romney Ann were able to work together and to share in excitement about the growth and production of the plants. Is it perfect 100% of the time? A euphoria of the perfect brother and sister relationship? No. Not at all. But the moments where we witness the possible growth of roots in the form of core memories being made together or the germinating seed of a stronger relationship between the two, those are the moments that make the daily work totally worth it.
I should probably make sure you know this is the fourth garden we’ve had at this house. This is the third we’ve planted all 4 of us. Usually we planted it and lost interest after a week or so. I’m not exactly sure what was different this year, but I think, actually I know, we needed this garden. We needed to see our ability to plant, nourish, and sustain something both literally and figuratively. We needed something that brought us together. So often recently we have felt like we’ve failed, like things didn’t go the way we had hoped, which has led to thoughts of maybe it’s us, maybe we’re the problem. We needed to be reminded of our strengths and our gifts. We needed this garden. Not because we couldn’t survive without it, our ability to feed ourselves and our family was not dependent on it, but we were in need of the nourishment it provided in the form of joy and accomplishment. Now don’t get me wrong, we killed a lot of plants, haha! We made some mistakes and will do many things differently next summer, but we also grew so much - flowers and vegetables, but more importantly we grew memories and love.
Sometimes poetry and symbolism get on my nerves, why don’t people just say what they mean, why is there a need for the imagery and flowery language? I guess I just hadn’t lived enough life, because our garden is far from just a garden. It is germinating seeds of relationship, it is our sunshine on a cloudy day, it is the oxygen in our lungs, it is tending broken hearts, it is harvesting a passion and love for one another, it is a place where the ecosystem of our family thrives. Just a garden? Not a chance.