Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. Gardens

It should surprise no one that awkwardness is passed down the maternal side of the family tree.

Let's talk about Awkward Grandma! (And by Awkward Grandma, I am, of course, referring to my mother. Awkward Dad's mother is sweet and great, and even if she's not, there is no way on earth I am going to talk bad about my mother-in-law on the Internet, despite the very very slim chance that she will ever see this. Just want my Thanksgivings to be as polite as possible, thank you very much!) So, Awkward Grandma; here she is:

I know. The awkwardness I got in spades. Her beautiful bohemian-ness, she kept for herself. And yes, I am the scowling baby she is gazing adoringly at; Awkward Baby.

My mother is adventurous, generous, and curious. She is many an -ous adjective, but mostly she is fabulous. My childhood was a happy, Muppety, autonomous romp, and, while I think she was assisted by the fact that it was the 80s, most of the credit goes to her. My mother is just fun. She isn't afraid of mess. Ask her to join you on whatever crazy scheme you have going on and she's there, with snacks. The woman loves Halloween and decorates her house like she is selling tickets. (We still make her tootsie pop ghosts every year.) She is typically reading about 6 books at once, and belongs to no less than 3 book clubs. The woman will not sit still and insists that we yell her Trivial Pursuit questions to her in the kitchen, so she can "get a jump on the dishes." She cooks like a house on fire; flying garlic, milk sloshing everywhere, hands flying over burners as she dances along to the Clancy Brothers that are always on in her kitchen. And the woman does not hold to the rule that you should cook something once before you make it for company; no, her dinners are typically 4 courses that she has never made before, some that we would happily never see again. Needless to say, birthdays in her household are an event; ask Awkward Dad about his southwest-themed one, complete with giant cacti and a human-sized Buffalo cut-out. But I think my favorite birthday memory was my mother's 50th; we spent the morning at Graceland and the evening of it drinking something called "Swamp Juice" at a Juke Joint outside Lafayette, while she sang happy birthday to herself, along with the entire bar and a very loud Zydeco band.

Here is really all you need to know: my mother's horse's name is Dante's Inferno, but she rarely rides him, preferring to feed him entirely too many treats and watch him "shimmer in the sun."

Here is Dante shimmering, Super Preschooler leaving, and my mother's heart breaking that she has yet to have a horse lover among us. She has high hopes for Super Toddler, who 10 seconds before this had his hand in Dante's mouth. We'll see....

Now, I know what you are thinking, Readers. You are thinking, "Man, I am hungry." Oh wait, that is me. No, what you are thinking is, "She sounds fabulous, Awkward Mom, not awkward. Are you sure awkwardness doesn't descend from the paternal side?" Oh yes, Readers, I am sure.

My mother trips. She drops things. She loses something important (like glasses) every single time she visits me. But the most awkward thing about my mother is her gardening style. (wait long enough, I am will eventually and awkwardly get to the title...)

My parents recently moved to an enormous house on 5 acres of land, just outside Freeport. They did this just as most of their friends are downsizing to smaller places, which is awkward in and of itself, I suppose. Because my father is still working in Chicago, they also maintain their Evanston house, which my father and middle brother trash like a pair of frat boys, which is also incredibly awkward. But I am here to talk about gardens. My mother and youngest brother have made the permanent move to Freeport and, in addition to watching her horse and monitoring an entire herd of cats, she has decided to garden. Like really garden, not just a couple pots in the kitchen, like she used to. She has enlisted the help of her sister, Aunt Awkward, who farms for real and has a garden roughly the size of Central Park, and we got to be there for the planting this year!

Now, last year, my mother decided (sometime in June) that weeding wasn't for her, so most of her garden didn't make it. Several glorious pumpkins that had taken root in her compost pile survived and made the trek to Michigan to delight the Supers, but everything else? Nope. She has high hopes this year, and my aunt is helping by making the rows incredibly wide and easy to navigate.

First step: Aunt Awkward and Cousin Awkward haul their enormous rototiller out of their truck and prepare the soil. The Supers watch in fascination for awhile because it is noisy and big (2 things they both like), but eventually they decide they too want to play in dirt, so they do this:

No, that isn't my mother's garden. That is just a huge pile of dirt next to her house she feels no need to explain. The boys were in heaven; making dirt roads, discovering worms, little boy bliss. Like the boots they have on? Super Preschooler's are your standard issue Sponge-Bob, but Super Toddler's are sparkly glam boots that we think were intended for a baby girl. They were the only one that fit and, well, they fit him in other ways too. Everyone that knows him knows that Super Toddler is a rock star.

Rototilling takes a long time, so I gave Super P. his sand toys and my mother gave Super Toddler itty bitty gardening tools. (Yes, she is way cooler than me.) Here he is, showing us the difference between a spade and a rake:

About the time their pants become more dirt than pant, Aunt Awkward finishes rototilling and we start Step Two; planting. This is also, incidentally, the last step. Aunt Awkward brings out 6 hearty tomato plants that she has been growing in her house and my mother brings out the 2 of hers that didn't die. They plant these and let the Supers give them some water. It soon becomes clear that this wasn't the best idea and that the young plants are in danger of drowning. Aunt Awkward solves this by telling the Supers to go water the dandelions in the lawn; now the tomatoes are safe and the lawn will be weed-free in about 10 minutes. That their dirt-encrusted pants are now mud-drenched pants is just an unfortunate side-effect, I suppose.

We plant a row of onions, a row of beans, and a row of marigolds; all from Aunt Awkward's stash. Then my aunt asks to see the seeds my mother bought. My mother pulls out 13 different types of pumpkin seeds, 9 types of gourds, something called "Harvest Mix," and a packet of "Baby Boo Pumpkin Seeds" that appear to be solely for Super Baby. Aunt Awkward, whose garden could feed the whole of Europe for months, just stares of her. My mother blithely laughs and says, "Look at this one! It's called Yugoslavian Fingers; what on earth do you think those look like?" It is quickly apparent that she has chosen her seeds completely based on weird names. I can think of worse reasons, but I can NOT think of any reasons more awkward.

The garden was planted in no time flat and Awkward Grandma called yesterday to tell us that "Super Preschooler's pumpkins are already coming up!" She had no answer when we asked her how her weeding was going and changed the subject to ask if it was too early to explore horse-riding lessons for Super Baby. Maternal side, Readers, it is pretty clear.


  1. Your mom is sixteen different kinds of awesome. I'm all for awkward gardening - weeding is way overrated. I should post pics of our garden, which was in pristine shape when we moved in, and is now a weed-infested nightmare. The previous owner would have a stroke.

    I hope Super Baby goes through a horse-loving phase, just for your mom's sake. I went through my horse phase at around age 14, but with an actual horse to visit, maybe it would have happened sooner. :)

  2. Heck, I never even get to the planting part, so weed-infested or not, gardens impress me to no end.

    Yes, I have fingers crossed for a horse-phase for someone in this family, I owe my mother that, as I completely blew off the horse phase altogether! :)