Remember the garlic? Well, we dug it up the other day. Isn't it beautiful?
I harvested the garlic because it was in that nebulous garlic harvesting window of time. The leaves of garlic plants only grow until the summer solstice, then they start to die down. The bulbs can grow for a while after that, but they quickly cross the line into over grown. Then they fall apart and start becoming next year’s garlic plants. Plus, if it’s very rainy, the bulbs can simply rot in the ground. Remember me whining about the rain? So I decided to pull the garlic.
Actually, it was Tre’s idea. We’d been talking about it for a few days. He pointed out to me that the leaves were turning brown.
“You should feed them or something,” he told me seriously. I explained the whole solstice/foliage thing, and he decided that it must then be time to dig them up. He was pretty excited to see how big the garlic was. I agreed that that would be a good idea…maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow came, and Tre suggested we dig up the garlic. I said sure, maybe later.
This went on for some days. I should know better than to try to put off Tre. Eventually his tenacity won out over my laziness, and he dragged me out to the garden, spade in hand. I loosened the soil around the bulbs, and he gripped the stalks and rocked them back and forth until the roots tore free. He examined the bulb, declared each one “pretty big!”, and handed them to me. We moved down the row, building a stack of fragrant garlic plants beside us.
I looked at Tre, bent seriously over his task. Sometimes I can see in the line of his shoulders and arms the shadow of the man he will be. Just as quickly as I see the remnants of the baby he was, I catch glimpses of him as an adult.
Tre’s birthday is this month. In less than three weeks he’ll be nine.
That’s halfway to eighteen. We’re approaching a solstice of our own here. Childhood solstice.
When I think about him being halfway to adulthood, it worries me. I’m sure I haven’t taught him nearly half of what I’m supposed to before he goes out into the world. Not even close. How will I catch him up, bring him up to speed before he’s gone? To make matters worse, he’s no longer the little boy who hung on my every word as gospel. Sometimes when I tell him things he doesn’t believe me. He has to check with his friends, or look it up in a book.
There are parts of his boyhood that are gone for good. He no longer sits on my lap to read a book. He doesn’t appear beside my bed in the middle of the night if he’s had a bad dream. He brushes his own teeth and picks out his own books at the library. I can’t shake the sinking feeling that my days with him are already getting shorter.
If I dwell too long on what’s already behind us, it makes me sad. It’s like trying to make the garlic keep growing after it’s done. No amount of effort will keep those garlic stalks green, and no amount of longing will bring back the tiny boy who slipped his hand in mine whenever we crossed the street.
But there’s other work to be done, in the garden and as a mother. Just as the tomato plants are expanding in size, bursting with life, there are other things in Tre’s world that are just beginning. He’s taking off in his understanding of the world, and starting to have insights that astound me. Today we were out at Taco Bell, and Raphael was trying to make a vending machine give him a sticker. Never mind that he hadn’t put any money in it, he wanted a sticker. Tre was prying him off the machine, causing him to shriek with rage. I came along to save both of them and Tre told me, “He wants one of those stickers, but I wouldn’t give him one if I were you. They’re all about how dumb boys are. I don’t think they should say things like that about boys, and I don’t want Raphi to have one.”
How about that? He’s developing a whole world view. And talking about it.
So we move ahead. Put one section of his childhood to bed and dig into another. The days may be growing shorter, but realizing that makes them sweeter.