It was a long hot summer, and so it has been with relief as well as pleasure that I felt the first touches of autumn: open windows, chilly mornings, and ripe apples from our trees. As rain becomes more frequent and the garden more barren, I’ve been enjoying things that thirty years ago would only have been chores. The raspberries are thinned and tied up; the tomatoes have been pulled; corn has been removed and composted, and two-year-old compost dug back into those beds.
I speak in the passive voice, but let’s be honest, here: the hands that did all this were mine. The rest of the household has other things to do.
I didn’t used to enjoy this part of gardening. When I was a kid I liked planting a little and weeding not at all and eating a great deal, but as I’ve gotten older things have changed. Maybe this is part of that wisdom that comes from age (which I’ve heard a great deal about, it seems) — the ability to see the larger picture. When I bake cookies with the kids they like getting things out, mixing, and tasting, but the cleanup they consider a separate task and it is No Fun. I don’t see it that way anymore, and I don’t see pulling tomato plants out as any less satisfying than planting them. In my mind I am already preparing for next year. But for the kids, taking a table and chairs out to the front lawn in order to play house is no trouble at all; bringing it in afterwards is So Much Work.
Although I do sometimes require the kids to help with chores, I don’t require them to like it. For the most part I can accept that their current understanding of the world centers around play, around starting, around Leaping Forward rather than cleaning up. I still vaguely recall the hurry and intensity of childhood. If they would rather do a wagon ride or an al fresco snack than pruning, I can accept that. Especially as it means that someone else is entertaining the baby.