Gardening?

I don’t do gardening. I don’t do dirt, or bugs, or weeds or any of that stuff.  I also don’t do ‘outside’ a lot – as in aimless walks through quote/unquote nature. Speaking of walks – what IS the difference between a walk and a hike? Or for that matter, the difference between Take a walk! and Take a hike!

I don’t do picnics (sitting on the ground with the dirt and the bugs Eww) or eating outside of any kind, fancy restaurant or not. (Have you ever walked past a sidewalk cafe and just wanted to  grab some food off a plate and keep walking? Oh man, I have to quash that urge so hard – one of these days I’m just gonna do it!) Okay, okay, yes, I will grab a slice or a frank or a pretzel and eat it as I walk along…but that’s not really eating outside as in those other examples – that’s just multitasking.

Rory is talking about his new garden today. The man is one freakin’ serious gardener. He has worm farms (I’m sure there is a reason to have that, I don’t really want to know.) and compost – and my limited knowledge of compost is that it is homemade fertilizer as opposed to store bought fertilizers which cows and horses make.

I’m sure it is very gratifying to grow your own carrots or whatever. I definitely can appreciate flowers and lord knows I cannot live without looking out my window and seeing trees but trees don’t exactly fall under the heading of gardening.  But compost? Worm farms? Are you kidding me?

Where I come from, if you live in a private house (as opposed to an apartment building) you almost always have a backyard (if you live in a somewhat more residential area you will have a front yard as well.) These back and front yards are usually grass and flowers and bushes  or, as the Brits call them, gardens.

Lawns can be a competitive sport in suburbia, I had a friend who finally gave up on trying to nurture a front lawn, paved it over, painted it green and had done with it. He was my kind of gardener. He was before his time because now I see people have done up their front yard with fancy paving stones and other assorted bric-a-brac and they call it a patio. Call it anything you want as long as you don’t have to mow it!

Which is not to say that I have not done gardening. I have – under duress.

June (my female DNA contributor) was born In Greenwich Village, always lived in apartment buildings but somewhere along the way acquired gardening knowledge and skills. When we moved to  a private house in Queens we had a front yard, back yard and a small side yard and the fun began.

She was an organic gardener before it was a thing – coffee grounds went on some plants; egg shells on other plants. There was always some leftover or other that was used to fertilize her numerous plants.  I’m sure she never read a book on gardening (actually I don’t think she ever read any book on any subject) but she seemed to know how to make plants grow (people, not so much.)

Now the thing is – I did the work. She would point, I would do.

The first year we were in that house, I gotta give credit where credit is do, the woman single-handedly ripped out huge hydrangea bushes (she hated hydrangeas) that bordered the two halves of the front lawn as well as the stickers bushes that grew along the curb.  She was not a big woman, and those bushes were bigger than she was, but she got her pitchfork, dug into the roots and just yanked those suckers out of the ground.  I swear the whole neighborhood came out to watch the show.

As I got older and bigger the ‘gardening’ became one of my jobs. Mow the lawn, fertilize, weed, plant – all under her direction. And I hated every minute of it. I never liked dirt and bugs – never! I did not like getting dirty even as a teeny tiny toddler. And there I was, forced to muck about in the dirt.

June’s favorite flowers were roses and I have to say we had some damn gorgeous rose bushes and rose trees that she nurtured, grew and even propagated. She had a green thumb. She stuck a branch of a lilac tree in the ground and the damn thing grew, took years but it finally got big enough to flower. She was also a dab hand at house plants – particularly African Violets, which I understood were difficult to maintain and I wasn’t allowed near them, not that I was all that interested. People use to bring her their African Violets, in their little pots, and ask her to fix them – she was the African Violet doctor.

Aside from roses, June loved gardenias and it was the one plant that she had no success with. She got one as a gift and she babied that plant.  She potted it in a large metal pot that she would bury in the backyard during Spring and Summer, then dig up the pot and bring it inside for the Fall and Winter. The plant grew big and healthy but it never bloomed. She had it for years (years!) and it never bloomed. Then one Summer she had a month off from work and she went to California to visit her family. I swear the minute she was out the door that damn gardenia plant started to bloom and just wouldn’t stop. I had gardenias floating in bowls all over the house. I was forcing them on the neighbors. I don’t think any gardenia plant, in the history of gardenia plants, ever produced that many blooms in that short period of time. Because don’tcha know, when she came back from California that plant stopped blooming, never to produce another flower. It was still big and healthy with lush shiny leaves but no flowers ever again. (True Story)

(As I am re-reading this I realize that once again, I started out with the intent to talk about wild gardens and ended up talking about something else altogether.)

Meaningless irksome things –

I live in Northern Virginia, therefore my ‘hometown’ newspaper is The Washington Post. I get it delivered to my door every day. Yes, fancy that, a real paper newspaper delivered everyday, to be read with breakfast.   I pay approximately $58 a month for this indulgence but it does include all-access to the digital version as well. I have no idea how much an issue of The Post would cost if you bought it at a store or how much the Sunday Edition is , it’s more because you get more ‘stuff’ and they use more paper.

At any rate I just got an email that said I will be getting a special expanded edition on Wednesday, August 12 and I will be charged the Sunday edition price. The expanded edition will contain special sections that I have zero interest in. The email included a link in case I had any questions. Using that link, I went to my account and it said I could opt out of the expanded edition. Well, I clicked that puppy right quick and then this notice popped up; “You opted out of the August 12 expanded edition As a valued Washington Post Subscriber, you will still receive the expanded edition, but you won’t be charged for it.”  I must say that is nice of them. I won’t get charged extra for something I don’t want and didn’t ask for but they will give it to me anyway.

I wonder how many home delivery subscribers are opting out? I wonder how many subscribers actually know how much they pay every two months and whether they will notice that their next bill will be a bit more.

Staying on the subject of where I live – Northern Virginia and the part of Maryland that abuts Washington DC are referred to as “suburbs of Washington DC” or “Washington DC Metro Area”.  I have always resented that. These are 3 separate areas – and I see no reason why DC should take precedence over Virginia or Maryland.  They appropriated bits of Virginia and Maryland to create DC and, if memory serves me right, a few years ago some folks in Alexandria, VA made noises about taking their part of DC back. Quite frankly I don’t know why anyone would want ANY part of DC – aside from the Lincoln Memorial and the Viet Nam memorials, I never found anything there remotely attractive and it most certainly not an attractive place to live. (Yeah, please don’t tell me about the Smithsonian museums or the National Zoo – )

Moving on to other meaningless irksome things –

Remember this post? I’m still a little irked, and maybe confused, that my niece hasn’t made any effort to contact me since she is the one who initiated contact.  I try to be a “shit or get off the pot” sort of person, if you go to all the trouble of tracking someone down, exchanging all means of communication (phone numbers, email addresses, yadda, yadda, yadda) then just blank – why bother in the first place.

So – are my feelings hurt a little, yeah, kinda. Is it a big deal? No, not really. She has played this game before. I don’t like games. I can understand where she is coming from, to some extent, but damn, the woman is 46 – time to grow up and shit or get off the pot.

Ending on a happy note – Don’tcha just love some ya some rock and roll bagpipes?

Responsibility and Freedom

I had a conversation just the other day about my caretaker/responsibility personality – whether it is innate or learned; whether I acquired it because I had to or I was born to it.

Glossing over all the details, I was forced to be ‘responsible’ and a caretaker at the age of 7, that’s when my younger brother was born. There are lots of children who take on adult responsibilities at a very young age, it isn’t all that unusual in the world. Perhaps in your world it might seem unusual but in the great big wide world it isn’t.

The older I got the more responsibilities I had.  My parents didn’t care what I did, where I went as long as my ‘responsibilities’ were taken care of.  By the time I was in 6th grade I was forging my parent’s signatures on all my school paperwork including my report cards. They never knew because they never asked – never asked about reports cards. Never asked about school trips. Never asked about me.

By the time I was 14 I knew how to write  a check, pay bills, make bank deposits. I had been doing all the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing for several years already.

Back in my day, where I lived, high schools had 3 programs, academic for those who wanted to go to college, business/secretarial for those who didn’t and general for those deemed incapable of the other two.  Parent’s got to choose which program their kid went in and had to sign off on the paperwork. My parents never saw that paperwork. I signed myself up for the academic program because I wanted to go to college. I was a junior in high school when my father finally tipped to the fact that I was not taking the secretarial course.

I was two people – the shy, quiet, mousy, compliant, responsible person they saw and the determined, competent, forward thinking, plotter and planner they never knew existed until the day I walked out the door.

Yes, as a child and a teenager I had a lot of freedom – to go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted. Nobody cared. And that was a good thing. Because I got to choose for myself who I was going to be.

And all those responsibilities – they were a good thing because I learned how to be an adult while I was still a child. So when the time came to exercise even more of my freedom I knew how.  Those responsibilities gave me the knowledge to navigate the practical world, to be able to take care of myself.

That was the war I fought within myself – those two people – always at odds.  The one who lived fancy free and the one who needed to be rooted and safe. The one who accepted no limits and the one who was afraid to truly test those limits.  The one who lived her life on her own terms and the one who accepted other people’s terms in the false hope of security.

Accepting other people’s terms never worked for me, never made me happy, never made me feel safe. Those times when I lived on MY terms, were the best, the happiest. I  might have made some choices that weren’t always the wisest but they caused me less pain than decisions made when living by someone else’s terms.

I haven’t been free in decades. I haven’t lived MY life, on MY terms in decades. I am mired in a swamp of responsibility that I don’t want and yet can’t walk away from.

I’ve sold myself for a false sense of security and safety. I’m living up to all the other’s expectations and to my responsibilities. And some people think I’m admirable but I’d rather be free.

 

Dichotomous: something with seemingly contradictory qualities.

That’s how I have often described myself.  Early this morning when I mentally started writing this that’s what I thought this would be about. But after a whole lot of thought that would be such a simple description but humans are not so simply described. Humans are more complex than either/or.  I have always seemed to be a person who went from one extreme to another and spent a lot of mental energy dragging myself to the middle.  I wonder now why I did that – why did I feel i could not feel and act on all my interests, desire, passions. I’m not talking about anything irrational here.

For whatever reason I spent the first part of my life craving stability while harboring a deep need/want to kick everything over and just go; just be. I stayed in residences too long, I stayed in jobs too long, I stayed in relationships too long.

And all the while I wanted to be the girl in this song.   It was the 60’s and a part of me wanted this life and to be that girl.

But my need for stability and certainty kept me tethered to other people’s expectation of how to live and who to be. Except – that was only the public me. It looked like I was following the middle line albeit in a slightly rebellious way.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college full time after high school so I worked the 9-5 and went to school at night. Maybe it was a working class thing, or maybe it was an Italian thing, maybe it was just time times (remember I was born in 1946) but my father alway said “Girl’s don’t need an education” and yet he was always educating me. My parents never knew I was taking what y’all call college prep courses in high school; they never knew I applied to college.

As soon as I could I moved out of my parents home into my own apartment and LIVED ALONE! Holy crap you have no idea what a hell storm that kicked up. The only way an Italian-American girl left their parent’s home was in a wedding gown or a coffin. Me, I left by bus.  1967 – it was a very good year.

The living alone thing was also shocking to most people – even the more liberal minded folks. Lots of girls my age flocked to NYC in those years, chasing a little fun and a husband. They lived 3 and 4 to a 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Me, I was chasing freedom.  And other things. A studio apartment in Queens was more than good enough for how I wanted to live.

So I was, at the same time, the good girl and the bad girl. More often than not the good girl is who people saw (despite my living arrangements; time normalized that.) It was the good girl who stayed too long and tried to look all even and level and middle of the road. It was the good girl who was just a little afraid of giving up what little security and stability she had.

I spent 20 years being the woman who could sing this song.  I remember the time a gentleman of my acquaintance said to me, very seriously, because I was known to run in those circles, or at least on the perimeter, “I didn’t know you knew Billy Joel”. I said “I don’t know Billy Joel, why do you say that?” He replied “I would have sworn his new song is about you” And that song was this one. I didn’t know quite to make of that so I asked several other gentlemen of my acquaintance what they thought.  They all agreed – that song was very much about me.

I had become, to a certain degree, the person in those earlier songs who I admired. I can’t say that I did it consciously. I just was being me, the real me. The only thing missing was the wandering. The moving from here to there. The wanderlust was tamped down. Stability won the day in the practical but the freedom loving, no strings, risk taking, confident bad girl, she lived too.

And she still lives, but only in the recesses of my mind. I have physically lived in so many, many places these past 30 years and learned that there is no place called home. Wherever I am that is my home until I move on to the next. I’ve learned that I love that. I crave that.

But, now it is not the need for stability and security that holds me back but rather responsibility that holds me down. Being the good girl keeps me where I don’t want to be. Keeps me being who I don’t want to be.

But there’s the trick, I am the wild child and I am the responsible child; I am both but I have to tell ya, I miss that wild child. Oddly enough it is the responsible me that has caused me more grief and pain (and money!) than the wild child every did. And all the regrets are laid to the door of the responsible one.

The wild child, the bad girl, she regrets nothing. Only that she let the responsible child win. That she regrets.