A Magical Backyard Garden – My Inherited Mom’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day and the Gift of the Backyard Garden

Vibrant little green peas, the smell of carrots with specks of soil still clinging to them, earth with the aroma of green onions – the promise of the backyard feeds my soul. Every May the calendar days around Mother’s Day and my internal genetic calendar push me to turn over my tiny plot of soil, buy a handful of pretty seed packages, and tuck their contents into rows ready to water.  It’s a tradition passed on to me from my mom and her mother, like colouring Easter eggs around Good Friday, and picnics on a blanket on a warm summer day.

nanny's yard picnic

On Mother’s Day when my four kids were little and excited to make me a tray in bed with the most delicious passion-filled luke warm pancakes, overcooked eggs, and bowl of Captain Crunch, I would elicit their dad to help me sneak pass them because always at that time of year the empty garden spots among the blossoming trees were just begging me to prance around on the dewy lawn and be lifted up by the best work I know. I’d run back to bed for my tray of child-love when it was ready.

My mom taught me the simple beauty and deep satisfaction of the vegetable garden. It was her favorite work too. She has five children and I have four. Raising a family is chaotic and chore-filled, and raising a garden takes you into another space for a short reprieve from groceries and laundry, meals and cleaning, ferrying little ones from here to there. Somehow in the garden you find time to dream a little dream while kneeling in the soft grass with seeds in hand, pushing aside an earth worm, thinking about how the summer might go, of people standing barefoot picking peas, or biting into the strawberries the squirrels don’t steal. It’s time away from time.

nanny and roses

I joke with my family that, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got the fall harvest in,” when in reality my eight by six foot bed of vegetables only supplies a few colourful meals and delightful raw snacks, not like my grandmother’s farm garden that was needed for survival ‘in the early days’. Still after retiring to the luxuries of town, my Nanny, an image of independence, planted a back yard garden; hills of potatoes and squash, rows of beans and peas, carrots and beets, circled by cornflowers and raspberries, and she did that until she was ninety-four-years old.  It’s my inherited Mother’s Day gift, from my mom, and her mom to be drawn outdoors with a reverence for the sun and the soil and the magic ability that nurturing the earth has to calm and sooth us, to take us to a sweet spot every May of hope and inspiration.  (Discover more at Amazon.com )

seeds in garden

Spring Time Knee Socks – la dee da

When I was a little girl Easter was the dawning of spring.  My mom, an accomplished seamstress, sewed me and my two sisters twirly Easter outfits – new cotton dresses or skirts and one year, I recall, she even fashioned us bonnets after taking a hat making course.  Our family of seven would take the first trip of the year Up North to Vermilion, Alberta to visit my grandparents.  On Sunday morning, we’d take the curlers from our heads, shake out our bouncy curls (from our normally pin-straight hair) and deck ourselves out in our new Easter outfits.  Despite it being cool enough for crusty snow along the fence and under the trees, it would be a treat to leave off itchy leotards, and pull up instead, brand new white knee socks.  I remember the freedom of that –  my bare legs eager for a bit of afternoon sun to warm them.

Now I have a granddaughter myself and I no longer have a grandmother.  I rarely sew anything and despite having purchased some lovely material, the outfit I bought my granddaughter for an Easter celebration at the family cottage was her first pair of overalls and a bright white onesie with teeny flowers on the collar.  But some Easter traditions must be resurrected each year and in the spirit of that, I brought up the famous Paas Easter egg decorating kit and after the two-year-old was tucked up in bed, her mom, and my mom and my sister and I, all dyed the tips of our fingers green and blue and red, in the process of creating the fancy eggs of my youth.

Oh Baby

And of course, all of us sentimental and reminiscing adults, laid out an Easter egg hunt for the only wee one young enough to be captivated by the search for the over sized-chocolate-holding plastic egg containers, though still too young to grasp the suggestion that a big bunny placed them in their obvious spots among the crocuses and  hyacinths. 

Maybe by next year I’ll sew her a twirly dress and find some teeny knee socks – but I think we observed enough tradition to successfully call up the glory of spring.

Hey Granny, You Better Buy an Easy-Peasy Umbrella Stroller

So I bought the bright red  stroller for wonderful grand-baby – and was shocked at what a buggy cost!  That said, I do remember saving hard for a double buggy when two of my own darlings were eighteen months apart, and in fact this stroller is built with the future in mind.  When you have baby number two you can purchase another contraption for the teeny new one to lie above this one (or something convoluted like that) and IF number two is followed by number three, everyone shoves over and you buy a little step to attach to the back so number one’s little feet still don’t have to do the walking!

So one-year-old granddaughter was in my charge while we visited Windermere B.C. and I took her to ‘town’ to have a little stroll around and pretend people were whispering, “Mom, or grandmom?”  Of course, the gig (in my dreams) was up when baby woke from napping and I needed to adjust the stroller back to let her sit up, and had to ask a youthful shop owner (of childbearing age) to assist me.  Baby and I wandered off down the sidewalk window shopping, with me picking up her flowery sun hat as she threw it down (“good game, silly grandma”) until I noticed that now the fancy buggy straps were so loose grand-baby could haul up and run off if she so desired.   I was struggling to tighten them – baby bouncing on my lap and stroller sliding all over the walkway when a kind couple came by – my peers, I might add and the silver haired gentleman, introducing himself as a experienced grandfather, offered to assist.Okay, we were all – the other couple and I, the grandparent type you see on the vitamin bottles in my bathroom – the just barely 50, might need a boost of vitamin type, you know that fit, but slightly graying sort from the freedom 55 comercials frolicking on the beach?

But could any of us fit-frolickers understand that millennium baby stroller? Nope – for full comprehension we needed a buggy from the eighties.  I finally had to tell this guy thanks for his trouble but obviously the darn, modern, high tech stroller had outwitted us all.  I slid baby back in and had the forethought to ask my would-be helper to demonstrate the four-way clip that held the whole harness together.  He obliged, but I guess, given the circumstances, my short attention span was timed-out.

After I fed my dolly a cup of strawberry ice cream for her lunch, I figured we should make our way back to the car.  There I was in front of  my ride trying like mad to undo that child-proof four-point clip and thankful that grandpappy and I had  never tightened the darn harness, as it was becoming clear that if we would have succeeded I’d have had to abandon my vehicle and stroller stuck-baby many miles back ‘home’ – instead I was taking off her shoes and preparing to lift and slide her out of the bottom harness when who should rescue us?  Kindly grandfather-man, probably wondering why I hadn’t paid closer attention last time.  Okay, I’m definitely the grandma – the universe was making that loud and clear – baby’s mom was at a music festival calling up her mis-spent youth and dancing her little heart out, and I was considering how badly I needed a teeny little afternoon nap.

Grandma’s don’t use the f-bomb – searching for the illusive portable crib

Okay, first off – I’m all about the ‘family bed‘.  I loved, loved, loved waking up in the morning with a teeny baby stretching their soft bare feet into my stomach.  And for years we had kids in our bed in the wee hours – because they had wet theirs or got scared in the night.

Now our sweet grand-baby is coming for a weeks visit, and despite my comfort with family bed it has been me that has been encouraging my daughter to try – just try- to get our nine month old granddaughter  to  spend at least some part of the night sleeping in her own little crib.  I didn’t mind my babies in my bed, but at some point in the early evening I put them to sleep in their own cribs and had some hours to myself – well, not always to myself, but with two, then three, then four kids I had some time when I wasn’t taking care of the needs of the tiniest.  My daughter has decided she would like that, as well.  Her and the baby’s daddy have spent the better part of two weeks with that goal in mind – they’ve been frustrated, they’ve been exhausted, they’ve been pleased – as they struggle through this stage that I promise her almost daily will pass so quickly that they will forget what it was like to not have a few blessed hours in the evenings to themselves again.  Which brings me to the search for the illusive, mysterious, just out-of- reach portable crib.

I’ve got four kids and one granddaughter.  I’m a grandma (one of those young-ish, hip grandma’s as I’ve pointed out before).  Grandma’s house should have a crib in it.  My mom’s did for almost a two decades of grandchildren – my grandmother’s had one forever – until she went into a nursing home at age ninety-four.  We’ve recently renovated making bigger spare bedrooms and replaced all the kids’ (now adults living away) single beds with brand new queens – and have NO room for a full size crib.  What to do?  Buy a portable crib – a mini crib – a apartment size crib.  Simple item to find in a city of  a million people and how many grandma’s?  I started off at Ikea.  The Swedes wouldn’t let me down, would they?  You bet they would.

From there I rolled into several large baby needs supply stores.  “I’m looking for your apartment size cribs,” I said, adding that I was the grandma, in case they thought I was one of those fifty year old moms you read about in the papers.  I was met with a whole lot of blank stares and then usually the suggestion of a play pen.  I don’t want sweet baby in the bottom of a playpen all night with their rigid folding pads.  I’m trying to replicate what I’ve encouraged my daughter to do for ten exhausting nights – so she can have some fun with us in the evenings (we’re fun) and not go backwards with baby sleeping with mommy from bedtime to sunup.

I went on-line.  Wow – everyone sells them on-line – Costco and Wal-Mart and Sears, so the next day I rolled out to those stores to learn they don’t stock any such item in Canadian stores.  What’s with that?  Is it something about the great white north having more space – grandparents that spent a stupid amount of money renovating up here in the Colonies would have thought about the extra 70 cm. by 130 cm. (28 by 52 inches)  needed for a crib?  Do they think we have big hulking babies here in the North who need big cribs only?  Granddaughter is lean with delicate fine features.

Finally a saleswomen in a second hand baby store went above and beyond, and told me, given a few minutes on her computer, she would indeed find the illusive portable crib.  And to my dazed amazement she did – through, of course, a company that supplies to local daycares.  Perfect.  Grand-baby can sleep in the sweetest little crib, on wheels that slide through a bedroom door AND it folds up – if she is here in six to eight weeks.   Darn.  (Grandma’s don’t use language stronger than darn – never the f-bomb in absolute frustration over how difficult the search has become.)  Okay, stay calm.  Short term solution –  I would rent.  I quickly discovered three companies run by lovely women that rent out baby equipment only – mostly to grandma’s suppressing the f-bomb after trying to buy the darling little portable crib.

First company is fresh out of cribs – portable and full size.  Second and third company turn out to be one and the same (?).  On-line I learn that from this company I can pick up the perfect folding bright and shiny crib at the airport for $35 extra, or have it delivered to my house for $40 above the rental cost of $82 which is similar to that of buying a very inexpensive full size crib (that doesn’t fit.)  Or I can choose to save the $40 and pick it up from the home office of the company, which is what I opt for in my effort to not spend as much as I have already spent on ordering the crib from the on-line catalog that will arrive after baby goes home.   No where on-line does it tell me that the rental company is located forty minutes outside the opposite end of the city.  Ah well, if was a lovely country drive with a good friend.

My daughter and our grand-baby arrive this evening.  The clean, fresh portable crib will be all set up with just-laundered bedding and a little stuffed lamb tucked inside.  The lamb will likely sleep alone as my soft-hearted well intentioned daughter will decide baby’s routine has been interrupted too much already and she can sit up with us and then go to sleep wrapped up in mommy’s arms in the big queen bed.

Oh Baby, I Can’t Get Enough

You know how people say, the best part of being a grandparent is that when they cry you can hand them back.  I poo-poo that.  (Well, I might hand her back when the poo-poo happens.)  But the best part of being my granddaughter’s grandma is I never want to hand her back.  I can’t get enough of little baby ‘Tessa’.*

I want to hold her little squirming body, and squeeze her plump cheeks, and pat her tiny back, and make squirty sounds against her belly, and stroke her silky hair, and have her teeny fingers squeeze mine, and smooch that hidden skin under her wobbly neck, and butterfly kiss her round face, and when she cries hold her whole little self firm and shush, shush, shush against her forehead, rocking her tired, or frustrated little being until I can be still with her, watching her breath  softly in my arms until she  sighs  and falls asleep…

Oh, baby  –  I don’t want to hand her back at all.

*  grand-baby’s name has been changed to protect the very, completely, oh so innocent.

So How DOES a Grandma Dress?

When I told one of my twenty-something son a few months back, that he was peppering his sentences with the f-word so much that it was annoying and meaningless (inferring that I use said word only when called for) he told me, I didn’t understand the way today’s youth communicates.  And when I told my twenty-year-old daughter it was weird for her to call her female friend, “Dude”, she informed me that I had no understanding of how her crew rolls. So I’m the one that needs to find a new personal steez.

Flash forward a few months and despite the fact that I’ve heard that fifty is the new forty, (except that your back hurts in the morning and you read all the articles about botox) my journey to be more chillax with said youth has been complicated by my new status as a grandma.  Suddenly it’s not cool for me to be cool.

Take the other morning – my precious, adorable, gifted (how can she not be?) three- month-old granddaughter, who I love to absolute pieces, was bawling her beautiful eyes out.  “Oh baby, baby, what are you bitching for baby?” I crooned, in the presence of above son, the uncle to the screeching infant.

“Mom, don’t talk like that,” said twenty-two-year-old new uncle, “you’re a grandma now.”

“Hey, I was joking,” I said to Mr. F-word.

He wasn’t amused.  “Just imagine my grandma’s talking that way,” he said.  “That would be gross.”

Okay, he’s a sensitive kid.  But this grandparent image doesn’t end with my vocabulary. My poor husband  wore a handsome new cardigan, instead of his usual sports jacket, to work on a casual Friday and not one, but two people joked that just because he was a grandpa, he didn’t need to dress like one.

Which brings me back to my personal steez. Okay, Grandma or not, I like to be in style.  But the height of last season’s fashions, and this, and probably next season’s too, has been skinny little leggings, or stirrups.  I wore both in the eighties, taking me through all four pregnancies in comfort, but these thighs of mine didn’t belong in leggings then and especially don’t now.  Neither do they take well to skinny jeans.  Wondering the mall in another season’s wide leg pants and feeling so not down with fashion, I discovered a look I could do – granted I’d have to give up pants completely until these styles –  suited only for women with peg legs – disappeared, but I could mimic several of the chic shoppers I saw and  wear black tights, and one of the several casual straight black skirts already in my closet.  Top it with a t-shirt, put on a cardigan, (not fearing ageism in cardigans), step into my sensible but stlylin Clarks and presto – I would fit in, a grandma with a little flair, straight off the chain – the kids might say.  (Actually, I imagine the kids are going to text and tell me I should have got them to proof read the slang.)

I zipped home, tore off the baggy jeans, pulled on the new tights, found the right black skirt and tee-shirt, added a black jacket (black is the new black) and stepped up to the mirror.  I’m proud to be a grandma.   But my uniform for this fashion season which is devoted to the peg legged women, looked like that of a f-ing (sorry son) aging flight attendant.  For reals.