It's not about the house.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Could Sing You a Tune or Promise You the Moon, But...

I do not like working in the garden. Never have. I don’t cry about it like I used to – there’s really no sense throwing yourself on the ground and thrashing around in a temper tantrum when you’re forty and there’s no one around with the authority to give you a reprieve. But I still hate it every bit as much. It’s right up there with writing on the cosmic list of Things I Would Rather Do Anything Else Than. Give me a deadline, and suddenly my favorite job is scrubbing toilets. But give me a weedy garden and it reminds me just how much I love to write.

Hm. Maybe that explains why – no matter what deadline I give myself and no matter how vehemently I insist that next summer I’ll be free – my Biggest Projects never seem to wrap up till July.

Aw hell. Ain't that a balls of a catch-22? I mean, if any of these Allegedly Big Projects ever pay off big enough that we could afford to hire someone else to do the gardening, then I’d be freed from the heinous responsibility – and therefore never able to find the motivation to complete the next one. Then we’d be poor again and have to grow a garden to survive. In which case I'd get another Project done and hire gardeners...

Of course, if any of my Projects ever paid off big enough for us to get a gardener, there’d be so much flying-pig shit in the yard that regular old grass-blades would be shooting up and sprouting ears of corn.

Besides, Johnny would never want to hire someone anyway. Gardening is something Johnny actually likes. He spends the last few cold months every year thinking and planning and reading and organizing, drawing little pictures and making little maps – until by the time the real spring rolls around he’s just exhausted. Which is why, despite the fact that every year I swear I hate it and I’m never helping him again, every year I get recruited anyway. Because as much as he loves it, Johnny’s rather like da Vinci on this score: once he figures out how something can be done, he doesn’t always get around to actually doing.

So he pulls dead leaves from the garden beds and leaves them strewn in nasty piles on the lawn. He pulls live weeds from between the rows and ditto. He stays right on top of the tomato plants -- until they outgrow their wire cages and fall over, then they're left to hold their own against the cucumbers and zucchini for the right to grow among the leaf-and-weed mess on the ground. Eventually even I give up on deadheading the basil, and let it just become an uglitive (which is kind of like a decorative except it looks like ass).

Johnny never lets me pull it up; any of it. He never stops insisting that it’s all still well and good. Like that year he planted mesclun mix and stubbornly made a salad after 99% of it had gone to seed. He said he preferred the peppery (read: tongue-curlingly bitter) flavor of "mature" leaves, anyway. I told him it was cat and gave the (ahem) guests permission to throw their no-thank-you helpings in the compost bin behind his back.

This year, though, I tried to be preemptive. I joined in on the planning and picture-making. I even offered up some ideas of my own. How about, I suggested, if we don’t plant zucchini this year -- since all it does is grow all over the grass anyway, and we’ve never picked a single squash, not even once? And what if we skip the fancy-colored tomatoes, too, since we can never remember which plant is which, and so wind up either picking red ones much too early or leaving yellow ones to rot right off the vine? And neither of us even likes banana peppers -- they're too hot to be sweet, too sweet to be hot; what are you supposed to do with the damn things, anyway? Not to mention that all we've ever gotten off of the alleged “pumpkins” were those two tiny little gourdy-things last year.

Why not (I went on, emboldened) try new things that we actually like, and old things that we like and we know work? The eggplant worked out really well in 2007 – why don't we give that a shot again? And brussel sprouts: we’ve never tried them, but we like them, and they are ass expensive at the store. Plus eggplant and brussel sprouts both have the added benefit of growing in a stalk, rather than a slug-attracting, lawn-mower defeating vine along the ground.

He agreed. Or, at least, I thought he did. Then he broke his ribs and went to England for a funeral and came back talking about bush beans.

Bush beans are fine. Bush beans are great. In fact, bush beans fit perfectly into my upwards-growing, proven-yield, will-actually-get-eaten-by-something-other-than-slugs garden plan. But since the English relatives had never heard of bush beans, he’d promised to send seeds over, and their growing season starts a little earlier than ours. So we had to go buy seeds right now.

I’m not clear how the fight started. I know I had other errands to run already, and the seed store is five miles away in the same direction I was going. I know I didn’t want to come all the way back for him and go all the way back over, so I asked if he’d rather join me on all my errands or if he trusted me to buy the seeds myself.

“I don’t want to go all the way into feckin’ Boston,” he said. Which I (apparently mistakenly) took to mean “I would really appreciate it, honey, if you’d stop on your way home and get the seeds.”

And so I did. And while I was there, I thought: why not get all the seeds we needed? I didn’t really so much know what seeds we needed – not specifically, not 100% – but at a buck a pack, how much harm could it do? I'd err on the side of extra, and if nobody else wants to plant them then I'm sure our pregnant squirrels will be thrilled.

So I got bush beans, and red tomatoes. I got two kinds of peas (sweet and the kind you eat as pods) and two kinds of peppers (green bell and jalapeno). They didn’t have brussel sprouts or eggplant (dang) so I grabbed broccoli and cauliflower in their stead. Also cabbage. And a few kinds of flowers on a whim. But I did not get zucchini. I did not get pumpkins. I did not get crookneck or butternut or anything, for that matter, that came from the squash family.

Would you like to guess what was the first thing Johnny said when I got home?

I’ll give you a hint:

It wasn’t “Thank you.” It wasn’t “I love you, honey.” It wasn’t even an understandable inquiry into the glaring absence of eggplant and brussel sprouts. No, the first thing Johnny said when I got home and proudly displayed my admirably-chosen selection of seed packages was:

“Where’s all the squash?”

I, but. We, but. Oh, man!

“I thought we said we weren’t planting any squash.”

“Yes, but I said I’d send some to England.”

“Well, you should have told me that before I went.”

“I did tell you. Last week. You never listen to me.”

Watch it buddy. That’s my line.

So naturally I denied responsibility. Then I went on to (very calmly) point out he could have joined me if he had whole lists of specific things he wanted me to get. And he said he didn’t feel like being dragged all over hell and half of Georgia (actually, he didn’t say that; that’s not an Irish expression at all; but this is my blog, and I like it, so I’m leaving it in). And I said I didn’t feel like being dragged all over hell and half of Georgia either, but there were things that just had to get done, and so I had to do them, which he wouldn’t understand because he doesn’t drive a car, so I always wind up doing everything around here.

Here’s a hint: when you’re fighting with a loved one – especially a loved one who’s really mostly still upset because his brother died – try throwing in a little “here's something you don't know how to do." If you can find a way to add a splash of "I do everything around here,” it can reeeaally do wonders for calming a volatile situation down.

He marched over to the stack of seeds and started snapping packets on the table like he was dealing out a deck of cards. “Don’t need cauliflower." Snap. "Don’t need broccoli." Snap. "Don’t need peas.” Sn—

“Don’t need peas?” I said, snatching the pea seed-packet from his hand. “Well, all right then!” And I—

(ooh. you have to promise you’ll still love me later. really? do you promise? well, okay.)

—I grabbed the envelope of Burpee pea-seeds, lifted it over my head, and tore it open.

Here’s a hint: if you’re the type who tends to find herself in volatile situations with her loved ones, try carrying an envelope of Burpee pea-seeds in your pocket at all times. Because I cannot begin to describe the satisfaction that can be derived from the sound and feeling of an unexpected shower of legumes.

Doesn't end the fight, though.

That was Wednesday. The fight finally ended sometime Friday afternoon. Today (Sunday) we were supposed to go together to get the last few things I "forgot," but Johnny fell in a hole yesterday and he thinks he aggravated an old fracture on his foot.

And as for me, well: I'll send the bush beans off to England in the morning (because I still have to do everything around here), but I’m beginning to think we might not have a garden this year after all.


So, um, does that mean I don’t have to finish my Big Project? No? Well, dang. But hey...

Look how disgusting the toilet is!


Sashimi said...

Nice! I' still giggling..and it's been 5 minutes. I got into a fight with Sushi u see, too bad there wasn't a packet of seeds around :-D

Sparkle Plenty said...

You are on a roll! Very funny. So much here to love--Johnny dealing out the seed packets, the peppery flavor of "mature leaves," the "pea hissy," the intoxicating array of Burpee seed packets (spinny carousel or stationery display?). Thing about seed packets...just like sewing pattern envelopes, I always wanted to open up the package and find the thing pictured (zinnia, skirt) inside...Rock the socks of the Big Project!

ege said...

Thanks, guys!

And since you (whoever you are) care enough to read the comments, I'll tell you a secret: If you want to see an embarrassing picture of me from the '80s, you can go here.


Sashimi said...

u'r tall.. And erm.... i probably appear like a stalker on your sitemeter, but just a goofy person, who loves a laugh especially in the middle of mounds of work..when the boss is not looking that is.

su said...

oooh I peeked! Love it! I have some of you better than that though, me thinks!..

Jenni said...

I thought I commented here, but I see I did not.
Now I do not remember what I was gonna say.