My mother has always been a gardener. Together, she and my father turned our suburban corner lot into a glorious green place, where we grew most of the vegetables our family of six ate in the summer, where we composted our organic kitchen waste (long, long before composting was trendy, or even understood by our friends and neighbors), and where we kids spent summer evenings picking stones out of the soil, and summer mornings harvesting endless rows of beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes so my parents could pickle, can, and otherwise preserve them.
Years passed, and our yard went through many phases, growing and changing as our family did. The huge garden gave way to a swimming pool and my parents continued to grow a few tomatoes and other favorites in raised beds my dad made. After he died, those went fallow, and then gave way to grass.
But this year, my almost-seventy-year-old mother decided she’s ready to grow some tomatoes again. There’s a decently sunny patch just off the deck in the backyard, but it was terribly unkempt, filled with raspberry canes and spring onions that had gone rogue from other parts of the garden, and a rhizome-spreading visitor from next door.
Mom wanted three planting boxes, and a stone pathway she could use to get among them to do her work. So, on a recent visit in advance of Mother’s Day, my spouse knocked together three nice planters, and Mom and I got busy with shovels, rakes, and brute strength. We pulled out an old planter, dug out bags and bags of that invader from next door, harvested some spring onions and some nearby rhubarb, dug out and moved rocks that were in our way, and got the area ready to become a new garden.
This made for two day’s worth of bending, pulling, pushing, grasping, squatting, single leg squatting, reaching, and twisting, lots of barefoot-on-dirt time, and tons of fresh air. Not to mention the time spent hanging out with each other, working side by side, or resting on the deck, drinking water and congratulating ourselves on our hard work.
Mom wanted a path she could feel comfortable stepping down onto, and walking over, while she goes about her planting and weeding. Something that would provide both stability for her less-sure moments, and enough texture that she can continue to challenge her balance and give her bare feet some lumps and bumps to navigate.
My mom has just started reading Dynamic Aging, and while she doesn’t see herself climbing trees like Joan, Joyce, Shelah, and Lora, she is absolutely interested in aging well, maintaining the mobility she does have, and even gaining more if she can. She’s even getting back to her composting roots, albeit on a smaller scale than our garden’s earliest days.
I’ve been working to #stackmylife more consistently, and this project really lent itself to that philosophy: I moved more, and moved more of me, racked up some barefoot time, spent time with my mother, took care of a little patch of the Earth, enabled my mom to move more, and move more of her, and to divert some organic waste to her own backyard to feed the soil that will eventually feed her (and me, if I’m lucky!). Also, that’s Mother’s Day gift-giving done and dusted. A pretty efficient use of two mornings, I must say.
If you’re still looking for a gift for your mom, or for one you know, we’ve sorted some of our recent books into helpful piles for you! Find what you’re looking for at your favorite online or bricks and mortar book retailer, and Happy Mother’s Day to all who mark it!