I would like to share a picture with you. Unfortunately for you, the picture has not yet been captured by a camera. I will give my best description, but it will probably not suffice:
Along the northern edge of the yard, directly across from the house, our vegetable garden is planted. In lovely north to south orderliness, the rows of edibles spring out of the earth. The love of my life is an amazing and ambitious gardener. He makes it seem so effortless, this growing of food stuffs. And indeed, without much encouragement, we have an abundance of lettuce and peas thus far. I cannot give away the lettuce; apparently, fresh greens are not a rare commodity in these parts. If the lettuce is underappreciated, the peas are fantastic. Verdant, lively, and spilling over the rows with wild little tendrils* of vine, they are beautiful and prolific. Amidst these peas I will set our snapshot.
The vines are not tied up, as may be tradition. He’s an amazing gardener, but he’s not into extra work for appearance sake, I guess. So, as I said, they spill. Actually, with nothing to vine around, these plants twirl around themselves and each other. Like an overly-affectionate couple, they can be a bit difficult to work around. They collapse toward the east of their roots, completely unharmed and undeterred in their productivity. There are a lot of pea pods under all that twisting mass of green ardor! To pick the swelling pods, one must lift up the plants and flip them over westward, then strip the little vegetables from the mother vine. It doesn’t seem to hurt them; they will make more peas tomorrow.
In the middle of two rows I sit on an over-turned milk crate,** picking first from one side, then the other. I toss the plump green pods into an empty and washed out ice-cream bucket. Sitting in the aisle, a chubby arm’s length away from the bucket is a toddler.
She is grimy, with garden dirt in the sweaty creases of her hands and feet. Her pretty hair clip has long since been pulled out, examined and discarded; now blond strands of baby hair are stuck to her face. Her shorts have been missing for hours and her juice-stickied shirt was removed with good intention. Of course she escaped before the replacement could be tugged over her head and belly, but who needs a shirt anyway? She has very colorful skin, a happy result of an unattended box of markers. Her eyes are pure blue twinkle. With precision she picks a peapod out of the bucket, pries it open, and hastily devours the tiny spheres within. Happily, she repeats the process.
She has eaten a lot of raw peas lately.
She wears cloth diapers.
I deal with the cloth diapers and their contents.
I don’t know what too many raw peas will do to a young digestive track.
I don’t want her to over consume, so I move the bucket to my lap.
Indignant that I have disrupted her contented munching, she rises and pilfers more pods while I bend another mother vine over and add still more to the bucket.
I place the bucket on the ground behind me, and spread my feet so that my knees meet the plants on either side, blocking the aisle.
She likes peas.
She does not regard the health and well-being of the mother vines.
She waddles past my feet and knees, stomping atop the fruitful vegetation and retrieves more snack.
I am the grownup here.
I am in charge of this eighteen-month-old.
I call for reinforcements. “Will you please take your sister out of the garden and go push her in her swing?”
The older, obedient brother grasps her squirming body to him and lugs her away a short distance to the swings. Despite her protestations and cries, I continue pea- picking. Even if neither of us is happy, at least one of us is still getting her way. Half a row of mindless plant-stripping later, the cries of objection stop. I guess she finally figured out who is the boss, right?
No. (Of course.)
Her brother can’t handle her distress and he set her free from the happy little swing set. He now returns to the garden and hands me her diaper. Tottering behind him is the naked girl child, eyes triumphant and determined. She marches to the bucket and reaches in.
How much harm can a few more raw peas do?
She is so adorable, and I am nearly finished with this task. Am I really letting a naked child sit in the dirt and eat unwashed food?
Yes. (Of course.)
I rob the wildly growing vines and am robbed in turn by a wildly growing baby. Both are beautiful, but the child delights my heart.
*I love that I got to use the word “tendrils” without reference to up-swept hair! Maybe I’ve read too many trashy romance novels, but I am so tired of “stubborn tendrils escaped her tight hairpins and curled against her neck/face/ears.” It automatically signals a good girl with some sexual frustration who is going to be uncontrollably attracted to the rebel cowboy / motorcycle dude with a heart of gold. They will fight their inescapable attraction to one another, barely talk except to argue, and end up engaged after a violent storm / life-threatening moment / marriage of convenience / barn burning throws them together in an impassioned embrace. It was much better in The Man from Snowy River when I was 9 and I would like to just once read about a heroine who knows how to keep her hair in place!
** Someday, if you like, I will write about all the uses I have found for some milk crates, proving that I did not pay too much for them at that estate sale. Even if no one else bid so high.