It was the sweetest of times, it was the sourest of times, it was the hope of success, it was the fear of failure, it was the pursuit of patience, it was the shame of anger, it was a time to dig roots, it was a time to tear down walls, it was a time to honor the past, it was a time to plan for the future — in short, the first few years of marriage can be defined by a staggering series of failures and growth.
Mister and Missus had just settled down. It was their dream to own the big plot of land with the pond in the back. They would have a garden with vegetables and squash. The corn would rise up and the peas would vine.
He went to work with a precise plan and a geometric vision that meant straight lines and order. She picked wildflowers and danced in the breeze. In his mind, his instructions were solid and sure to bring success. Missus wanted to help but his directives weren’t clear to her ears.
He tried again, this time fewer words and louder in volume. At first, she got small, but then she got big. Her temper, a curse, let loose words of discouragement. A project meant to be deliciously fruitful was already choked in weeds.
Missus wanted gladiolus bulbs dug in the very last row. For the other end, white pumpkins and ornamental gourds to be harvested early autumn. Stubbornly, Mister planned for jalapeno peppers, onions and garlic. Hillbilly tomatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes were neutral territory.
There were numerous rules about planting and a specific sequence to follow. She tried to remember them all but was distracted by small fingers digging up earthworms and little girls chasing butterflies.
After one particularly potent dispute about proper plant spacing, Missus had an epiphany. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, then surely a second garden might help love and plants grow luxuriantly.
She named it “Girl Garden” and delighted in the potential her plot held. She chose the spot, right next to the house and water spigot. She gave little thought to sunlight or soil type. She let her children choose the seeds and scatter them. Her little garden was much like its gardener, wild and free.
The Girl Garden was watered frequently by children playing with the hose. Also, by sheer luck in lieu of planning, it basked in early morning sunlight.
Her source of pride was her sweet cherry tomatoes and robust basil plants. However, she was unprepared when oregano took over one entire end. Too much cilantro went to seed before the tomatoes were ripe. She could only dream of homemade salsa.
Out at the big garden, many plants thrived but Mister was disappointed his zucchini plants had blossoms but little fruit. Rabbits snuck in at night and ate his cabbage.
Tending his garden was tedious and lonesome work. He struggled to keep up with picking the green beans before they were stringy and slugs ate his eggplants.
One evening as she walked past his garden, Missus couldn’t help but notice the variety of plants in tidy rows. She thought the sunflowers were glorious, stretching high to the sky with petals uplifted. She wandered in slowly, crossing the line into his territory.
Impulsively, she pulled up a few weeds and inspected the tomatoes. The next day, at lunchtime, he picked some lettuce from the Girl Garden for his BLT. He straightened the stakes of the cherry tomato plants back into place. Small acts of kindness added up to a truce.
As the days turned into weeks, his enemy became his ally. By grace, her adversary became her collaborator. The next year they compromised with marigolds instead of gladiolus bulbs. Missus planted her basil near Mister’s cabbage to keep the rabbits away. She added her oregano to his garlic, onions and Roma tomatoes to make delicious marinara. He reseeded the cilantro from the Girl Garden at the perfect time to make homemade salsa; he even threw in a jalapeno.
Some years the two gardens produced an abundance of crops; other years the weeds won many battles. The difference was that now Mister and Missus were in it together.
As the kids ran under the towering sunflowers, Mister said to Missus, “We know how to grow them.”
She laughed as she walked in between the squash and flowers and replied, “Popping up in rows, wild and free!”
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