I tell Z I’m going to my garden next to our building. He doesn’t respond. So I sing to him. We have determined that he tunes me out most of the time, but he doesn’t if I sing to him. He tells me not to take it personally but regular talking is really uninteresting to him sonically.
At first I was shy, but it’s so nice that he hears everything I say that it’s worth singing. I tell him I’m surprised he wants to hear someone sing when I can’t stay in tune. He tells me this is one of the benefits of him losing his hearing.
I don’t understand how the hearing loss works. Some days he tells me he’s going deaf and other days he’ll tell me the elevator bell is an F#. Some days he plays Bach so beautifully that I feel like the luckiest person in the world to sit so close to the music. Other days he needs silence.
Then why are you playing video games all day?
Because it’s silent.
You could do Spanish vocabulary. That’s silent.
I turned Minecraft to Spanish. I’m learning the word for obsidian in Spanish.
What is it?
I have perfected the art of never living in the moment with my garden. I make big plans and when they seem too easy to execute I make them more impossible. I built four more small gardens on the sidewalk. Total: 10. There was no water source so every time I watered it took me an hour.
When the time came, in April, for the bulbs to start blooming, people noticed; they pulled their dogs away. By May, people stopped me in the streets to thank me.
And then the gardens kept changing, like fireworks. Plans I made so obsessively over the last ten months unfolded with near perfection. Only one garden didn’t bloom as expected and ended up with empty patches. But each day new people showed me pictures they took, and there were so many flowers I started giving them away as people walked by.
There has never been a water source within reasonable distance, but the watering became even slower when I had to get in between the tulips. Sometimes when I was watering Z would yell out the apartment window for me to come home, like we’re living back on the farm.
Sometimes I’d say okay, I’m coming, and then not come for a little while longer like I’m an alcoholic at the bar. A little more water. A little more picking off the dead petals. Or digging out an obstructed stem.
By June the whole neighborhood was excited with the flowers. People were bringing their friends to see. And someone said to me, “Remember the pink and orange flowers you gave me a couple of weeks ago? Did you grow any more of those? I was hoping you’d have more this week.”
That’s when I realized people were expecting the flower beds to look like this all summer. So I started digging up bulbs as they bloomed, transplanting them to my garden in the park, and replacing them with flowers for summer and fall.
It was a massive production I did mostly at night. I told Z he could only play video games at night if he didn’t sleep the entire day. “It’s not that I hate video games, but they take up all your empty space. You need something new in your life and there is nowhere for it to enter.”
“Empty space? My whole life is empty space.”
I don’t know what I did for the next five hours. Bulbs. Bone meal. Bio-char. Z caught me below our apartment and yelled out the window, “Mom! It’s midnight! Get upstairs!”
While I was shaking off dirt in the kitchen sink, Z told me, “Gardening for you is like video games for me.”
I told him he’s probably right.
Then he said, “If I spent as much time on video games as you spend on gardening you’d throw out my computer.”
“OK. I get it.”
“You need empty space. Maybe you’re scared of what you’d fill it with.”
The next day Z told me he didn’t think I was trying hard to find a new apartment. “Mom. The building is infested with mice. Get us out of here.”
“It’s really hard to stay in this neighborhood and not be in an old building and old buildings have mice.”
“WHAT? Why are you looking only in this neighborhood?”
I froze. I told myself that I was only looking in our neighborhood because change is bad for a kid. But I couldn’t say that to him. He’d never believe it.
“Look,” he says. “Here’s a great apartment two train stops from the garden.”
Oh. He already knows.
So there are plenty of new buildings in Boston just not close to my garden.
Z picks a building that is beautiful, and because students make Boston’s rental market crazy, our mice infested building is the same price as the gorgeous luxury high-rise.
We are packing and he says, “How can you not be excited?”
“I’m in shock to move away from my garden. I just have to get used to the idea.” I know I’ll never take the train to a garden. But whatever. I know I need to stop gardening. It’s taking up all the extra time in my life — just like video games.
Z shows me this picture at lunch. He says, “Look at the plot that didn’t bloom. It looks really good. I thought you’d like that the most interesting garden was the one that had the extra space.”