As a child, I spent many a happy summer afternoon alongside my mother as she gardened, taking full advantage of her as a captive audience. She was a frequent “customer” at my imaginary “restaurant,” which had, I think, an angry cat named Max for a chef. Although I’m sure the repetition of “Mommy, order something else!” got mind-numbing, she never showed it, and always seemed happy to play along.
As my daughter enters her toddler years, I’ve been enjoying watching her explore the great outdoors of our yard (much bigger than the old Center City one). Right now, she’s still a little uncertain, sticking close to us as we point out dandelions, birds, ants and other wonders. But I plopped her down next to me the other day as I kneeled down to do some weeding. And for a few minutes, as we sat peacefully together in the mild spring sunshine, I caught a little glimpse of a future summer’s day, with my daughter playing happily in the yard and me tending to our garden.
Just as my heart opens with great joy to see my daughter forming the shapes of new words, taking more confident steps on her little legs, or reaching for my husband with a look of pure love, I find a small taste of that same sweetness in the opening of leaf buds on a tree that we’ve planted, or the first bloom from a flower never before glimpsed.
Don Egolf and his friends back in Center City have left my nest for good, and I have to accept that their fate is no longer under my control. But how much do we ever truly control these things? I can nurture and love my daughter, and my plants, with all of my heart, but I can’t protect any of them from harm. And I have to accept that the wonderful intimacy and total access to them I enjoy today will not last forever.