Monday, April 21, 2008

How things have changed -- jcarolek

This afternoon, having spent more than nine hours glued to my office chair, having returned to the rigors of everyday life here, I decided I needed to get outside and do something constructive. The fact that it had been raining here for more than 24 hours, and flash flood warnings peppered the area was no deterrent to me. I wanted "out" and I offered myself a perfect project outside. Weeding my front "garden." OK, I have to be honest. My front garden is REALLY just a swale cut into the land to direct the flow of water AWAY from the house's foundation, but I plant flowers and ornamental shrubs in this rock covered swale in an attempt to make it appear more of a "planned landscaping" than an "emergency ditch to divert rain flow."

Since the rain had softened the earth, it made sense to me to take advantage of nature's gift and pull the weeds when they were able to put up their least resistance. So out I went. I managed to pull four buckets full of weeds before it was, once again, raining too hard to make it a reasonable chore. And as I stood in the garage, watching the rain and awaiting my next opportunity to "score" a few more weeds, I thought how different this was from the first real "weeding" job I recall.

I was about nine, I guess, when Mom instructed us to go out into the yard and cut out dandelions. She wanted them all out of the lawn, and she had six little helpers...well, maybe five, I don't really recall Ray, the youngest, being part of the "crew" and since he would only have been about three years, or so, I'm guessing he was NOT on work detail that day. Mom gave us paring knives and instructed us to cut out the entire plant ... not to simply pluck the offending yellow flower from its stem. For our efforts, we were to be rewarded handsomely... I cannot recall today whether it was a penny a plant, or a nickel a plant, but regardless, to us it was a fortune.

Jeannie, Tim, Dan, Ted and I set about the task and soon it became obvious why we were being paid for this chore, when we were NEVER paid to do chores ... in fact the "job board" hung as living testament to the scores of chores we were tasked with daily and for which we were to receive no compensation, save, possibly, an attaboy. But digging dandelions was a chore! Dan and Ted (the younger of our brood) attempted to take a few shortcuts, presenting Mom with plants properly cut out of the ground, but "cleverly" cut in two or three in hopes that Mom would count them as multiples rather than the single plants they were. But Mom was wise to them and they had to continue in the prescribed manner along with the rest of us.

I don't recall how many dandelions we rid the yard of that day. I really didn't care, by the end of it. My hands were sore, my knees were sore, and I was sore at my brothers and sister who, I was SURE, had it easier than I! I had the dullest knife. I had the hardest ground. I had the dandelions with the biggest roots.... you know the story...poor pitiful me!

I was never too fond of dandelions after that experience. But, I had a healthy respect for their tenacity. They are not easily bowled over by a band of knife wielding youngsters. And they continue to attract youngsters with their bright yellow heads that turn rather quickly to the snowy white wisps that burst so pleasingly onto their airborne journey when kissed by the wind from the child's pursed lips. And I remain convinced, that the dandelions I pull from my garden today are somehow the great-great-grandbabies of those we were paid to eradicate from our lawn in Bowie, Maryland, forty years ago.

Today I choose to work without the knife and to work with soft soil. And I am aware that my "weeding" is simply an exercise made to prove to me, once again, that the dandelion will never truly be conquered by my feeble attempts. But, for a few months, they will oblige me and allow other flowers, the ones more suitable to my adult taste, to flourish in the "front garden."

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