A Lesson From the Garden

Through the Snow by Lydia Selk
“Through the Snow” by Lydia Selk

Preston Walters rolled his eyes and sighed heavily as warm air started coming from the air conditioning vents. This always happened when he was in the car line; it was one of the reasons that he hated picking Misty up from school. He shut the air off and pushed down on the electric window buttons. The front passenger window glided down with ease, but the other three stayed shut tight. He slammed down on the buttons with his fingertips repeatedly, but still the windows refused to budge.

By the time he got to the pick-up point, he was soaked with sweat, and totally frustrated. Misty, seeing him, started jumping up and down, waving excitedly. When the all clear signal was given, she ran to the window and shrieked, “Hi Daddy!”

In a sour voice he muttered, “I’m hot. Just get in the car, so we can get out of here.”

She opened the door and happily jumped in, throwing a pink book bag ion the floorboard. Totally oblivious of his bad mood, she said, “I like it when you pick me up Daddy.”

Preston looked her way, and seeing the expectant joy on her face, guiltily forced the smile and lie to his lips, “So do I Honey. So do I.”

As Misty talked non-stop all the way home, going into great detail about every minute of her day, Preston simply drove and half listened, offering an obligatory, “Really?” or, “You don’t say?” during the rare quiet moments. When they reached home, Misty jumped out as soon as the car stopped, and before he could even get out of the car, she was already bursting through the front door. As he watched her run inside, he could hear her high-pitched, excited voice, “Mommy, Mommy! Guess what I did today?”

Preston sighed and leaned over to pick up her forgotten book bag.

Later that day, while walking to his garden, Preston relived his drive home with Misty. He didn’t like the way that he felt toward his six-year-old daughter, but he just couldn’t seem to get over it. Misty was their third child, and the only one who hadn’t been planned. In fact, she was a total surprise, coming nine years after Tiffany, and eleven years after Jack, who was now a senior in high school. Preston thought about having one child ready to graduate, while another was just starting out. He suddenly felt tired… and very old.

He stopped at the gate and looked out onto the garden. This was his favorite place to be, his silent escape from life. He like to spend at least thirty minutes every day here, pulling weeds, picking off bugs, looking for new growth, and just enjoying the time outside. It always helped him get his mind straight.

His eyes moved to the end of the garden. There, completely covering the fence, was the plant that had become the central point of his backyard getaway. He had found it about a month before, one little leaf poking out of the ground, at the end of the bean row. He’d started to pull it up, but thinking it might be a squash plant, he decided to leave where it was. He checked it almost daily, and the little plant seemed to take on a life of its own. Before long, it had put out large green leaves, and Preston concluded that it must be a pumpkin plant. But eventually, it started branching out with long, wispy tendrils that reached out and grasped hold of the fence. One day he looked in on it, and a beautiful white flower had opened up. There, attached to the flower, was a small green fruit shaped like an hourglass. He knew then what it really was; a gourd.

Disappointed, he again thought about pulling it up. It was, after all, in the bean row. Besides, you can’t even eat gourds. But, somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He enjoyed watching it too much. So, he’d left it where it grew, and every day since he had rushed out to the garden to check on it. He spent a lot of time manipulating the vines, so they would grow up the fence, and now it had practically covered every square inch of it. He was amazed how something that started out so small could grow so quickly.

Preston was still admiring the gourd plant when he felt something brush against his leg. He looked down and saw Misty. Her small hands were holding onto the chain link gate and her face was pressed up against it so that one eye was staring through a rusty link.

She only said five words, “I like your garden Daddy,” and then she looked up at him and smiled. Then, as quickly as she was there, she was gone.

As Preston watched her skip away, a disturbing thought crossed his mind. Misty was, in fact, just like his precious gourd plant. The gourd plant had come up unexpectedly; so had Misty. The gourd plant had showed up in the wrong row; just as Misty had shown up in the wrong part of his life. He’d been disappointed when he’d discovered what the gourd plant really was; as he’d been disappointed when he’d discovered that his wife was pregnant with Misty.

His heart stilled momentarily as he thought about Misty. Was he treating this gourd plant better than he was treating his own daughter? How much time had he actually spent with her, talking with her, really listening to what she had to say? Was it possible that he was holding a grudge against her for coming along so late in his life? Was he actually blaming her for some of his marital and financial problems? The more he meditated on it, the more he was ashamed to realize that all of that was true.

He looked back toward the flowing plant at the end of the garden. He had been so wrong about that plant. In a matter of weeks, with a little care and nurturing, that gourd plant had become the centerpiece of his garden. What if he’d pulled it up when it was just coming out of the ground? He’d have never gotten to watch it grow or see it bloom. He would have missed out on so much. What was he missing out on with Misty, by feeling the way he was?

A sound shook him out of his thoughts, and he turned to see his little girl running across the yard with her arms held straight out from the sides of her body. She was making airplane sounds. Seeing him watching her, she shouted, “Come play with me, Daddy.”

Preston looked at his garden, then back at Misty, and it was though he could hear that gourd plant silently pleading with him to step inside the gate. Then, from somewhere else, another voice came to him, Are you raising a garden, or raising a daughter?

The question shocked him, and he was still thinking about it when Misty called out to him again, “Come on Daddy, play with me. Please?”

She stopped right in front of him, arms still extended, still making bubbly airplane noises. Then, stepping forward, she wrapped her arms around his legs and said, “I love when we play together Daddy.”

And, just that suddenly, the garden didn’t look so enticing, his plants not nearly as important, and he found himself leaning over to hug Misty back.

With a slight tremor in his voice he said, “So do I Honey. So do I.”

This time, he really meant it.

Last 5 posts by Tom Hames

Last 5 posts by Tom Hames