Friday, March 20, 2015

Pulling up the seedlings

Writing about gardens this week, I was struck by a memory of my dad.

Dad planted a garden for a year or two when I was a kid.  I don't mean a flower garden, or a patch of rosemary and sage under the window.

I am talking about a garden.  Long rows.  Furrows.   

There was a pretty large patch of land behind the lumber yard where he worked.  So one year (maybe two?) he plowed up a large area, and planted vegetables.  We had corn, we had cucmbers, we had squash, we had bell peppers, beans, peas, and eggplant (that was the one unfortunate addition to the garden, to my way of thinking). 

I was five, maybe six years old, and he decided to let me care for an area where he had planted some squash and beans.  After he showed me the difference between the weeds and the seedlings, and told me it was MY job, in MY garden, to make sure that the weeds got pulled so that the seedlings would be able to grow strong.

And I got started, and I asked for clarification.  "Is this one a weed?"

"Nope.  That's a bean plant."

"Is this a squash?"

"No.  That's a weed."

One of these bean plants is not like the others.
And so, after the fourth time I asked (I simply could not hold the mental picture of the seedling and the weedling in my head, for some reason), I was too scared to ask again, and so I just did my best to pull out things that looked like they didn't belong.  You know, like the Sesame Street song?

A half hour later, Mom and Dad came over to inspect my work.  I looked up, trying to read whether he was mad or not, seeing if I had done it right.

I had not.  I had pulled up every single sprout, and left every single weed.  There was not a single seedling remaining in the five-foot long section of the row that was designated as MY garden.

Dad just shook his head, and looked over at Mom: "I guess that is one way of getting out of having to weed the garden."

I was devastated.  I think I even tried to re-plant some of the squash seedlings I had pulled, and was told that it was not possible to save them. I had unintentionally destroyed my own garden. Leaving weeds in my wake.

I have gone through a lot of my life doing things that way.  Hoping that I can figure it out before someone notices that I made a mistake.  Faking a confidence I do not feel.  Afraid to ask questions, when I feel like I should already know the answer. 

And sometimes it works.  Most times, I end up pulling out the seedlings.

Asking is almost always better.

I might even be able to write that technical manual that is on my desk, if I were just to ask for the help I need.

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