My mother was a child here, in the garden I used to make-believe was a world all mine. My cousins and I would gather by the fountain in the Japanese Garden outside my Nana's bedroom, wash our hands with magic, make our barbies dance through the moss between the stones, pointing out fairies in the shadows of Torrey Pines. My mother married my father in the garden after Christmas. She was twenty-one and he was twenty-four. She wore a cotton dress and no makeup and her father delivered the service under the arbor at the foot of the garden where today we have our Easter brunch. Where Archer and Fable gather at the mushroom fountain, soaking their hands and good shoes, wiping their fingers on my dress. Where life is busy being lived against the sun.
I've been thinking a lot about homes. About what it means to own one. I am as delighted as I am terrified to put down roots. Real roots. Roots you must owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to. Roots upon which old houses rest with roofs that need repair and garages that need rebuilding, about tending a home garden in the yard that will be our land to tend. Could I learn? Should I even bother trying? How could I possibly even try to live up to the women in my family, their thumbs green, and mine... chipped with nail polish. Will that change when we have a home of our own? A home that we will work to make ours, learn how to tend to? Fix? Love?
We hide eggs for the children in trees older than my mother. We pull back branches and flowers, placing delicately within them Archer's hand-dipped creations as my Nana tells the children to close their eyes.
"No peeking," she says.
"No peeking," she says.
And they listen. Because magic is worth more than knowledge ever was. Because it's much more fun to discover the truth for themselves. No shortcuts. No cheating. Someday there will be peeking out of fingers but not here. Not yet.
It's a wild garden. Wild like all things wonderful. Maintained by eighty-year-old hands unafraid of dirt under the fingernails. And the children smile and dance and kiss the flowers on their petaled faces with lips chapped from sun, their hair wild from eastern-blown winds, lightly salted, combed by sea with foam for fingers.
I often think about how it must feel to move into a home and then sixty years later, experience it still, the same place, except now you have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who chase each other down the same paths you once weeded as a newlywed more than sixty years ago. How does it feel to watch everything change in a place that has stayed relatively the same? How does it feel to watch everything grow and everyone grow up from the same garden swing?
The world so different, and yet, here we are together, like always, happy ghosts buzzing around us like bees, reminders of those who've passed etched kindly in the faces of the many children who resemble them.
When we were children, we would play within the layers of garden for hours and days and weeks the summer long, naming flowers and tripping down cobblestones, tearing our dresses before brunch, Breyer horses in our hands, clip-clop, clip-clop, neiiiiiigh... We made believe until everything was possible. Until truth and fiction were related, cousins and sisters and brothers hidden beneath the the pergola, curling around our ankles like the sweet peas we picked and ate off the vine.
Twenty-five years later, nothing has changed. Except for the bodies that gather here. Flowers and faces reincarnated in baby ferns among the rotting wood. I remember so much the feeling of being young. Flat-chested in my floral dress with my hair in bows and my sandals scuffed from not caring. And I watch my children, not as their mother but as someone who desires so much to rediscover the world without peeking first.
Show me what you see. Teach me what you know. Direct me toward the nearest fairy. Hold my hand and take me to the blue and purple eggs.
In the garden we are all tiny. Even my grandmother, who gets down in the dirt with the children. Even my teenage cousins who wield baskets in and out of paths, scattering wood chips with their giant shoes.
As a child I lied about the garden when I went outside its walls. Kept the fairies and the flowers and the stories to myself to keep them safe. The garden was a private place where only gnomes and birds could trespass. And my cousins. And my siblings. And me.
When we packed the kids into the car yesterday, exhausted and elated with tummies full of hard cooked eggs, Fable cried. And then Archer cried. Because while coming together is wonderful, saying goodbye to gardens and fairies and egg hunts and cousins and games of hide and seek is cruel. I remember feeling the same way when I was little. Not that I don't feel the same way now, hiding the eggs instead of finding them...
But it's all the same, you know? It's just as fun to hide as it is to seek.
Some places never lose their magic. How grateful I am that all these years later, the garden remains as it is this Spring and always. Ask my Nana why she built the garden and she will tell you, for the children. And here we are, ageless, together, four generations of boys and girls finding ourselves and each other in new ways. And we do. Stretched across swings, and among flowers, behind sunglasses and under the hats my Nana keeps in a pile by the door to prevent sunburn. On wood beams, surrounded by flowers overflowing and cracked Terra-cotta pots.
My mother is a child here, now. In this garden, all of us are -- budding year-round, even in the shade. Where time escapes through wooden gates and nothing exists beyond the rainbow of blooms that climb upward toward the sky.
That's the problem with breaks. We get to taste what life would be like without jobs or school or bedtimes. We get to play until we fall over with holes in the knees of our jeans, drink mimosas surrounded by the people we love the most, people who know us best because they've known us always, because they've watched us trip around the same pathways with scuffs on our shoes. We get to play and dance and eat piles and piles of berries on those special floral plates with the butterflies on them.
And then it's Monday morning, time to wake up and put on our school uniforms and sensible shoes, deal with more escrow paperwork, make dentist appointments, worry about the future, find a way to press our faces to the sky and bask in the warmth of reality. Because it is warm here. Because this is home now. Because soon enough, empty baskets will be filled to their brims with new and multi-colored eggs.
ed: the italicized bits of this post are via this one.
(Thanks so much for letting me take some time, you guys. Hope everyone had a lovely week!)