The jury will remain forever out on the question of whether or not I would have been a good mommy, because I’m not a mommy. My own take on it is that I would have been a really good mommy, depending upon the decade that judged me, and whether my children died or not. That’s probably what it comes down to.
Because I would have had all the big, uncomplicated love. I’m sure of that. It came through unfiltered from my mom. She had the big love and surrounded me with it whether I deserved it or not, and as much as I vexed her as a teenager, I never had a doubt about her love. She’s been gone over thirty years, and it’s still around me, like permanent swim-floaties in the sea of life.
So I would have loved my babies a whole lot, but at a certain point, I know I would have been all “really? Can’t you do that by yourself?” and “sure. Go out and play kickball in the street and see that you get home before the streetlights come on.” Because I’m not a person who is interested in being needed all the time. Some people like that sort of thing, but it makes me want to run away. This would have made me Mother Of The Year in the 1950s, and eligible for parole in ten years, today.
I’m that way in my garden. I have put in all sorts of plants that probably don’t belong there, things that would be as big as Volkswagens in their native territory, but wouldn’t fill a Radio Flyer here in the best of circumstances. And I never give them the best of circumstances. I give them a chance, and then it’s all a matter of their own ambition and the vagaries of climate. “Here you go,” I say. “You’ve got dirt covering all your original roots. Go for it. If you die, you die.”
|Still Camp Margo|
But then there’s our lemon tree. Picked that sucker up at least 25 years ago and put it in a pot. It’s incredibly talented at not dying. It was supposed to be hardy down to 20 degrees F, and it is. That doesn’t mean it’s happy that cold. We’ve basically bonsai’d it through sheer neglect. We watched it soldier through a decade of winters on our patio; for most of them it held onto its increasingly morose, cracked leaves, and dropped them every spring, before starting afresh. And then one year it eked out a fragrant flower and a little green lemon-bud, about a half hour before winter. And this is what it has done since. It flowers more or less anytime, with no regard for day length like a sensible plant, and each flower motivates toward full lemonhood in about a year. We got our first edible lemon only about twenty years in, but the plant itself will not die. The pot is inconveniently constricted at its neck, and every time it occurs to me to try to re-pot it, something else like a dental procedure presents itself as more fun. It’s got its original soil–looks as rich as ground cigarette filters.
|Margo of Camp Margo|
A couple years ago the little trouper had multiple lemons going by late October, and we were so smitten by its sheer pluck we sent it to Camp Margo. Camp Margo is where all the good plants go in the winter. It’s like Palm Springs for rich, winter-weary Oregonians. Margo stows it in her greenhouse and gives it love and attention and probably fertilizer and generally spoils it rotten, and then she returns it in April with lemons waggling from it and just a touch of reproach about the leaf-buds.
They can reproach me all they want. You can’t count on your kids bearing fruit, either, but if you can keep them alive, that should be good enough.
I, too, never had kids, and will never know what kind of mother I would have been, as that ship has sailed. But I remember how my mom would turn me loose at a very young age, to walk to my friend's houses in the neighborhood. I would be gone all day, and never would she seem to worry, as long as I made it home for dinner or called to ask if I could eat at my friend's. Now, this is called "free-range parenting". Back then, it was just "parenting". I didn't have to be entertained 24/7 by gadgets. I made up my own games and would sometimes make toys out of the oddest things. I definitely became more creative and "bookish" because of my upbringing. I feel sorry for today's kids, who don't get a minute of unstructured time to themselves, and need an array of expensive devices to keep them permanently amused. For all their amusement, though… they do not seem happier than we were, running free and pecking at dirt.
Also, they're sicker. Ear infections, sinus trouble, allergies. We should pick them right up and take them to the top of a big hill and roll them down it.
You probably would have been a MUCH better mother than you giver yourself credit for. Your kids would have been loved enough to let them learn to solve problems, love the outdoors, and be literate. All qualities sorely needed in our modern world. The jury is still out on your gardening love.
Hey, I DO waltz through every few days to see if anyone's dead.
I've done ok with my children, but I smother my plants with too much trimming, fertilizer and over watering. They scream "Just leave me alone pop!" But sadly I can't.
You're a helicopter gardener!
Our kids turned out okay, I think, but I'm a bit too hands-off with the plants as well. The first apartment I lived in came complete with a bit of ivy stuck in a bottle of water. I still have that thing. I planted it in dirt one year, and after it grew and grew and GREW I took a bit and stuck it in a bottle of water and threw the big ol' original in the backyard compost. That was, uh, about twenty years ago. The "bit" is still stuck in a bottle. I probably should plant it in some dirt again one of these decades.
In my defense, although I likely don't need a defense in the Murr Zone, some of the cats we've had through the years have considered my ivy their personal treat and kept it mowed down to an alarming stub. It hardly seemed worth it to plant a stub if it was just going to die. We've been hovering in that limbo for years now.
DON'T PLANT IT IN ANY DIRT NEAR ME! Even I can grow ivy. [shudder]
Cripes, you mean it's not a miracle it's still alive?
It's a miracle it didn't go condo on your compost pile.
"Permanent swim-floaties in the sea of life." I wish I'd written that. You're pretty floaty, yourself, MomMurr. We all feel it.
Apropos of nothing, I can't swim. But I know how to live!
Today's over-watched kids seem to catch every germ that floats by.Germs had to move pretty smartly to get up our noses-we were always on the move.Except when we were scrunched in an armchair, reading.If we did get sick (like when measles or chicken pox went through) we were cossetted and fed real soup, had our temp. taken with a mercury thermometer and sent back to school when the snot/spots/scabs had gone.
Or, I've heard, invited all our friends over so they could get it over with too. My mom didn't do that, but I've heard tell.
Not quite , but sometimes several kids (and mothers) would all be sick so would be herded together at one house-creche and the non-sick mothers would make the cups of tea, black currant drinks, etc.
Sooooo familiar. On lots of levels. I had free range parenting myself. And much, much preferred it to the current fill every moment with approved activities and no dirt.
I get my dirt in the garden. And am largely a free range parent myself there too.
Add me to the list of non-parents. Sometimes I wonder – but it is an academic wonder and too many other things distract and derail that train of thought.
I was sent to mumps and measles parties. I started the chicken pox party myself. All of my class down. Including the teacher.
I did it inadvertently. I got the chicken pox but it didn't make me sick. Just bumpy and itchy. The doctor who had to check me out before I went to camp figured I had poison ivy or something, and off I went.
I had to write my grade eleven exams covered with the scabs. No one would sit near me, refusing to believe I wasn't Typhoid Mary, so for the only time in my school career I didn't have that guy sitting behind me sniffing every thirty seconds. It was bliss.
I know that guy. He sits next to me on the plane.
Especially measles parties. All the girls went to measles parties. didn't want to have measles when you were pregnant, so get over it when you're young.
That measles might have been the sickest I've ever been, but since the flu is still fresh in my memory I'm sticking with that.
I have considered adopting my favorite sushi chef, who is only 60 years old and would make a fine son. But now I wonder if I should offer myself up for adoption at 65 –I have a pension, medicare and social security and could pay my own way– but wouldn't there be legal impediments to including an adoptive sushi chef? Please advise.
I'm not an expert. I'm still working through the details of adopting a plumber with computer skills. I think you just have to explain that you come as a set.
I suppose this counts as a weird addition to the comments, but W. Somerset Maugham adopted an adult man, his lover, in order to be able to leave his estate to him. The adoption was later annulled and his daughter sued for the money she felt she had been owed from the estate. So yes, you can try and adopt a sushi chef or plumber. I don't know if it would currently stick, however but if you are successful, let us all know. I can think of a few adults I could adopt. IT guy for one. And a gardener. And a chef.
The daughter was successful?? That's a disgrace. I wonder why he couldn't have just left the man his estate without adopting him. I was shocked the first time I saw a family fall apart over an estate. Like, who thinks of what their mom and dad are worth dead? I got used to it the next twenty times, however.
"Mother of the year in the 1950s, eligible for parole in ten years, today." Absolutely proves that "all change = progress" is false. Raised four kids in the 50s – 70s; wouldn't make it today. My helicopter rotors just wouldn't spin.
I'm kinda grateful to be a kid raised in the '50s. I've had some seriously good timing in life.
You'd have been an awesome mom. Because you'd have let your kids figure stuff out for themselves. Which…psst…is how you get kids who understand that actions lead to consequences. As far as your gardening, I think there is magic in your fingers, that's what I think. I'm hopelessly impressed by your lemon tree. I am in love with my goofy little Ruby Red grapefruit bush who has been given so many chances to die and taken none of them. He's incubating twin tennis balls as we speak. Waiting for those fragrant blossoms. xoxo j.
I just heard my father's voice: "It is not good to keep children from the consequences of their own actions." I don't know, though. I just saw a four-year-old walking on a wall that fell four feet to one side and about twelve to the other, with her father right there watching, and I about arrowed in to sweep her away. I guess Dad knew what he was doing. It's got to be hard, though, to love someone that much and let them crash and burn. Meanwhile, the citrus–I think they're worth it for the flowers alone!
When the consequences could lead to death or severe head injuries, it's not helicopter parenting. We don't let our kids play in a busy street. We don't let them fall into deep water when they can't swim. We don't let them play with matches unsupervised. Parents do have to think!
We don't let them play football either, do we?
This "we" didn't. "They" sometimes do, though 🙂
That is one plucky little tree.
i was never wanting to be needed either. My kids got raised independent; I taught them early how to do things for themselves, which in turn helped me a lot and gave me the free time I needed.
There has to be a benefit for the kids to have a mom that isn't going nuts.
I don't associate Portland with lemon trees, certainly not one's bearing fruit. Filbert trees maybe.
One of the interesting thing about having kids is how the roles reverse somewhere in their 30's…..I get calls now that have a caring voice saying "Dad? How are you doing…." (translation: we've found a nice quite little nursing home, are you ready?)
I have known, and might even be related or married to, a number of people who want to be Taken Out just as soon as they get to the stage where someone else has to wipe their butts. Not me. I think I would like that.
That made me laugh out loud! I remember the first show of Frasier. One of the brothers gave the other a brochure from a retirement facility to put their father in. The horrified brother read: We care so you don't have to." It didn't, of course, but I bet there is a lot of truth in that statement, unfortunately.
As a free range child I rode my JC Higgins across state lines, ate dirt, and until two years ago never spent the night in a hospital. I have hardly ever spent any time in jail either. I had an indoor orange tree for 25 years once.
We're putting every bit of that in your obituary, and no more. It has a nice, complete feel to it. An arc, if you will.
I just heard the phrase "free-range parenting" today, after reading an article about Maryland parents who allowed their 10 year old and 6 1/2 year old walk home from the park alone (gasp! the horror). Seriously? I know the world is crazy, but it always has been. We just hear about it more. I was a free-range parent and proud of it. My son is intelligent, creative and able to take care of himself. Thank heavens, 'cause plants get distressed when they come to my house – I try, but they have difficulty getting their acts together, as far as I'm concerned. I love "permanent floaties in the sea of life" – perfect!
See? And that's what you get. Intelligent, creative, and able to take care of himself–or dead. I think it's a good tradeoff.