Sunday, June 22, 2008

Early harvest, and farewell to an old friend

Gosh, that was fast! The radish seeds I planted a mere four weeks ago have grown into radishes already. The yield is plentiful, a little too plentiful, if you ask me. No one in my family will touch a radish, and my personal radish limit is one, maybe two. I planted radishes because they are supposed to help carrots grow, and I like carrots, but wouldn't you know, the carrot seeds never sprouted.

These radishes are actually pretty tasty, for radishes, but still, I think I've had my fill.

This gardening thing is a bit mystifying. I would never have suspected the radishes would be done already. It's not even July yet! I guess I should plant something else in the space the radishes occupied, but I'm not sure what.

More garden mysteries: I am growing lettuce for the first time, Bibb lettuce, and it seems to be coming along nicely. But, I have absolutely no idea how to harvest the lettuce. Do I cut it? Do I yank it out of the ground? Do I just pick the leaves? How do I know when it's ready?

In other weekend news, we had a yard sale on Saturday. The kids were the driving force behind this. They wanted to unload some toys and make a fortune in the process (to buy new toys, of course). No surprise, they did not make their fortunes, which secretly makes me happy because I do not enjoy having yard sales, so they likely will not suggest it again!

The sale was emotionally difficult for me, as we put our old double jogging stroller out. This stroller was such an integral part of my early days of mothering. I used it nearly every day for six years. It was an extension of me, it was part of my identity. Every day I loaded my kids and went for long walks around the neighborhood. Some days we just wandered. Other days we had a destination: the park, a friend's house, the store. When they were really little, the kids enjoyed the walks as we passed familiar landmarks or followed construction sounds to see who was getting a new roof or driveway. As they got older, they protested aimless walks (aimless to them, but purposeful to a mama who needed exercise and fresh air), so we packed snacks and books, or brought their little tape recorder with a story or music on tape to keep them sated and entertained.

Some days their tolerance was extremely low, and they'd want me to do only one jaunt around the block, and would scream in protest when I wouldn't take the turn that would get us home as quickly as possible. Neighbors out working in their yards would look up as we passed by, and I thought we must have been quite a sight: the grim-faced mama firmly pushing a big stroller while doing her best to ignore the screams of the tots inside.

Not every day was like that, though, and in fact, most days weren't. When my son was in kindergarten I pushed him to school every day in the stroller, with my daughter along, too, and at certain times of the year our shadow was cast directly in front of us for most of the walk to school. If I put my hands on the handle in a particular way, our shadow looked like a silly head, and the kids would laugh as I wiggled my fingers to make the silly head look even sillier. As kindergarten wore on, my son didn't want to be seen in the school yard in the stroller, so I'd push him most of the way there, and one block from school he'd hop out and walk beside me the rest of the way.

When my son was in first and second grade he didn't ride anymore, but my daughter still rode as we took my son to school. His backpack would ride in the seat next to her. When my daughter started kindergarten, I pushed that stroller to school three times a day: once in the morning to get both kids to school, back at noon to pick up my daughter, then once again at the end of the day so my daughter and I could go get my son.

When my daughter started first grade she was big enough to walk the distance, so the stroller began to stay parked in the garage. After I dropped the kids off in the morning, it felt strange to walk home by myself without them or the stroller. I felt like an imposter, like I was trying to pretend that I didn't have kids. People were so used to seeing me with that stroller, and everyone commented "You don't have your stroller!" No, I wasn't using it any more. I could go on walks by myself now. I could pick my route without hearing screams of protest. I could leave when it suited me and not have to pack snacks and books.

For two years the stroller has sat in the garage collecting dust. It took up a lot of room. We would have to push it out of the way to get the lawn mower or the bikes or the scooters. We piled things on top of it. Basketballs were stored in the seats. It was a cumbersome thing to keep around. So when we decided to have a sale, we brought out the stroller and dusted it off. We put air in the tires, straightened out the seat belts, wiped down the footrest. When I put it in the front yard with a price tag on it, I felt like I was being unfaithful somehow, like I was not remembering how important this piece of equipment had been to me. I had a lump in my throat.

It didn't sell right away, and I started to secretly hope no one would buy it, but then suddenly there was a man there with a little 3 year old girl, and she was saying "Why you need this?" and he was saying "Because mama tells me she wants one for you and the baby," and he was inspecting it and asking questions, and next thing I knew I had money in my pocket and there was a stranger pushing my stroller--my stroller!--down the sidewalk and out of my life. My eyes brimmed with tears and I had to look away. I half wanted to run after him and tell him it was a mistake, I still need my stroller, he can have his money, I just want that stroller back in my life.

(Here they are, sound asleep after a jog with daddy.)

It would be silly to keep it. Really silly.

It's still in the neighborhood. Maybe I'll see it up at school in a couple of years.