It took me 20 years to plant a garden

I am a planner. I can’t remember a time when I was not a planner. I had my life mapped out at the age of 3, and while the details have changed somewhat along the way, the scope of my vision has not. I’m constantly living in today, tomorrow, next week/month/year/decade. When I read Robert Fulghum’s description of his friend Grady, I saw a kindred soul. I know this quality is more infuriating than endearing, but I can’t help it. It’s what makes me me.

It also means I’ve lived my life in a state of partial paralysis, not knowing what to do next because there have been so many variables between where I am at any given moment and where I want to end up. But I’m working on that.

When I was a child, I imagined I’d grow up, buy a house, and lay down roots. Deep, thick roots. My kids would come back to that house with their own kids on holidays. I’d sit on the porch in my dotage. I haven’t given up on that idea yet, but I’m 43 and still rent. That house is way off in my future, if I ever buy it at all.

I have never not rented. This is my first house, but my entire adult life has been in leased domiciles. At first, it’s liberating — you can just leave when the lease is up. Then it’s limiting: You can’t do _____ because it’s just a borrowed place. I’m at stage three now: It’s borrowed, true, but for now it’s my place, and I’m going to treat it as such.

A few years back, I bought R a cherry tree for Valentine’s Day. Because our daughter’s middle name is Sakura (which means cherry blossom in Japanese), and because we both love cherry blossoms, and it was a grand gesture. But I bought a miniature one, and a pot to plant it in, because we rent and I didn’t want to leave this symbol of our love behind when we move — and as this isn’t our house, we will eventually move.

But the tree didn’t like the pot, so R finally transplanted it. It’s thriving in our front yard now.

This summer, I started a little garden in our backyard. I’m not talking the container garden on our deck — I mean a border, some stones, some morning glories and moonflowers, and a couple of bird feeder poles. It’s small, but makes our backyard look…well, ours. I’ve never had a bird feeder before. Or a flower garden. I dig it.

Like that cherry tree, I’d become pot-bound. For 20 years, I’d boxed myself in so tightly that I couldn’t put down roots — what would become of my roots if I left?

What would become of me if I stayed? Because I did stay. For 20 years and counting.

Yes, when we go, I’ll be leaving something of me behind. Like the tree. But rather than seeing it as something I’m losing, I’m looking at it as leaving my mark. This house was my daughter’s first home. It’s where my son was conceived. Where we brought him when we took him home from the hospital. I got engaged here. I’ll come back here a married woman. This house has held great meaning in my life, and I’m pleased to think it will bear my mark after I’m gone.

This mindset is beginning to free me from my paralysis. The knowledge that, as people, events, and objects make their mark on me, so too do I leave my mark. Leaving something behind is not a bad thing. It’s my legacy. It shows I was here. And like my cherry tree, I can put down roots here. Perhaps I’ll only dig them up in a few years. Perhaps not. Either way, it will be nice to feel the cool earth on my roots, I think. To stretch. To grow.

I hope whoever lives here after us enjoys the cherry tree and the bird feeder garden.


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