What I would have taught him

I would have had him weed with me. A horrible form of child abuse, accompanied by protestations of “Aww mum, other families just buy their food at the grocery store”

And I would have taught him to watch with his eyes and his hands. Plants coming back to life after winter are fragile things. What we see and what we feel are different. Trust your feelings, your remembrances before you blindly believe what is in front of you. There is life all around us.

I would have taught him that weeding matters – pulling weeds in spring is easier than pulling weeds in late summer. You don’t have to do everything perfectly, but some things should be done well. Choose what you put your effort into.

I would have taught him about the secret lives of insects. Of worms that move through the soil, fertilizing and aerating. Of ladybugs that eat insects, of beetles, of ants. I would have taught him the wonder of an ant colony, and the need to sit and watch for hours, to truly understand. I would have taught him that all living things have worth, and we need to be kind to creation, at least until it eats the beans.

I would have taught him to be patient, gardens take time. Seeds are slow to germinate, plants are slow to grow. Gardens involve long term planning. You will need to see the next five years in your head before you see the results in front of your eyes. You will water and hoe and weed and thin long before you ever pick or eat. And what you planted, it will look nothing like what you pictured, and nothing like the photo. That’s ok. What it looks like is what it is.

I would have taught him the joy of honest work. Of the ache in your shoulders and the back of your thighs, that speaks of digging and turning over soil, of crouching down to pull weeds, of moving backwards as you plant a row of seeds. I would have taught him that after a day of hard work, you sit on your back deck, you will be proud. Of the work that you have done, and the life that you have coaxed forth. And one day, on that deck, I would have handed him his first beer, because gardeners get beer after a long day, and I don’t care that you are only 13.

I would have taught him that having a plan saves time. But plans aren’t just organization, they are dreams. And dreams matter in this world. I would have taught him of the companionship we can have with those who share our dreams. And that when you strike out in this world on your own, you should find someone who can share your dreams.

I would have taught him about sustainability. A good garden requires far more of you, than you get out of it. I would have taught him that pesticides and insecticides and fertilizer are no compensation for time and sweat and good compost dug in, they are the easy way out. I would have taught him that we must consider how we act, and how we treat the earth. There are many people on the earth, and we must make our footprints small, and it doesn’t matter what bags and bottles the neighbour opens, you just keep digging up that quack grass.

I would have taught him that nothing is certain, and that you sometimes have t0 pick yourself up and start over after you loose everything to frost, to bugs, to early winter, to rain, to just the vagaries of seeds. Nothing in this life is certain but death and quack grass. There’s always next year.

I would have taught him that in the year the broccoli is eaten by moth’s, and the potato’s by beetles, that is the year that the carrots will take off. And that there is no bug or pest or blight that will eat an entire crop of zucchini, and that’s why you are grating it for chocolate cake.

I would have taught him the joy of feeding your own family. I would have taught him the very special wonder that is a carrot dug fresh from the ground, cold and wet, rinsed off under the garden hose. I would have taught him the sweetness in a pod of garden peas. Pulled off the vine on a hot day, warm in your mouth. I would have taught him the smell of fresh herbs on your hands, as you move to pick them, dodging lazy bees who seek flowers for their honey.

The smell of fresh dirt has a fragrance all it’s own. Flowers have their own thoughts and heart, and vegetables are a new promise every spring.

These things my son, these things, I would have taught you.

This entry was posted in Friendship, Gabriel, Gardening, Meme. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What I would have taught him

  1. c. says:

    (I think you just taught me a few things.)

    I know these are not things you will have the opportunity to teach your son, but I hope another opportunity will come. Some how. Some way. These are important lessons and you’ve noted them here quite beautifully. I hope you get the chance to impart them on Gabriel’s brother or sister. One day.

  2. CLC says:

    Another beautiful post, Mrs. Spit. I am sorry you can’t share this with your son, but I believe, at least fervently hope, that you will share this with his little brother or sister some day.

  3. Mr. Spit says:

    This made me cry.

    Just when I think I’m fairly even keeled and steady sailing… rogue wave comes along and knocks me around.

  4. Dawn says:


    This post touched me in a way I can’t describe. I haven’t read something this heartfelt and meaningful in some time. I am deeply sorry that you and the Mr. couldn’t spend more time with Gabriel, I am glad that he was able to hear that you love him. This reminds me of a poem my great grandmother wrote and when I find it I’ll email a copy to the Mr. on the Madness list.
    Can I come plant a garden with you?


  5. Nurse Lochia says:

    I’ve just read your story from the beginning and just know I’ve got tears falling into my lap. I constantly struggle with wondering why things like this happen. I know that I must have offended you on my own blog based on your comment on one of my posts, but I’m not sure why. Please let me know what it was.

  6. JuliaS says:

    A lovely sad/sweet post.

  7. Reyna says:

    The Mister linked this to our list, and I’m glad he did. You guys are SO strong. One day you will have that missing piece to your family, and until then I’ll say a prayer for you both

    Oh and also… you REALLY made me feel guilty about the plants waiting on my backporch for the last 3 days LOL 😀

  8. Paige says:

    Cheryl… this was such an amazing blog. You brought tears to my eyes as you touched my very soul and made me feel something of your pain and longing.

    It’s not only heartbreaking that your precious son didn’t have a chance to enrich your lives, but that he also missed out on you both enriching and enlightening his life.

    I hope and pray that you’ll one day soon, get the opportunity to share your love and your wisdom with another angel…

  9. Aunt Becky says:

    What a beautiful post, darlin’.

    I have tears in my eyes as I type this.

  10. Naomi says:

    This was such an unbelievably eloquent post. If you don’t mind, I’m going to print it out and save it for my daughter as the only gardening wisdom I’ve been able to impart on her as of yet is to not spray the dog with the hose lol.

    I’m so happy you found my blog, or I never would have found yours. Good luck with your knitting! I’m knitting impaired.

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