My teenagers used to hold me sacred. Not unlike the dandelions they thought were so beautiful. But now like the clover and chicory, my magic is lost on them.
I am somewhat obsessed. On less windy days, I decapitate every last weed surviving the herbicide. Dismantling tangled woody stems of chicory just beneath the soil is a quest I live for despite the blisters forming between my index finger and thumb. Relentlessly, I plunge a modified trowel into my spotty front yard for hours on end. The weeds have to go so a healthier lush lawn may emerge, but my youngest son once asked "What's so bad about dandelions, Mom?"
I remember the days weeds were pretty. It was the early 70s when folks still prized their clover lawns. I was 5, and my family had a delicious smelling one. Plucking the clover's snowy white flowers, I formed garlands and chewed tart juicy leaves like a gourmand. What was not to love? Clover adds nitrogen to the soil and was a key ingredient in grass seed mix. The Irish used it to make bread, and Celtic druids held it sacred. Clover is an emblem of the Trinity, yet today I curse it. I ponder new methods to erase father, son, and holy ghost from my landscape. Its presence has grown beyond embarrassing, not unlike me with my sons.
My kids are growing up quickly, and the space between us is widening. They ooze testosterone and speak in cromagnon grunts about matters of hot girls, fast cars, and post-hardcore rock. Like their music, the boys are moody and shocking, straining our interactions. They still recant their stories to mom, but they are no longer tolerant of her analysis or humor. She lacks relevance, and her magic seems lost on them now.
I reflect on this current mother-child dance as I dig in the dirt. Somewhere in a dusty object relations textbook from graduate school the dance is explained. It is dress rehearsal for the imminent separation. Mother inches toward obsolescence so child may exit with less pain, and child villainizes mother so she may let go with less pain. But "less pain" still stings, and comprehending it in your twenties is wholly different than living it in your forties.
Lately I feel like post-1970 Dutch clover. At some point I morphed from lucky shamrock to annoying weed, and those lousy druids are nowhere to be found. I long for those bygone days I was held sacred when my babies begged "hold you me, mama!" More often than not, they now cast me aside.
No longer the fresh and sweet emblem of the Trinity, I have become an unyielding, stubborn weed clump that won't be extracted without a fight. The clump is deeply rooted and resistant to move because it is simply not yet ready to let go of the earth.
The children who have cluttered up my world with their energy and laughter and lifeblood have left a void. I have more hours to pull weeds, whose numbers I must say are diminishing. Fresh air, quiet, and purpose bring calm to my soul, and occasionally a son joins me for a chat. I treasure such rare moments, for no matter how much they may fall out of love with me, I remain enamored still.
I have heard that when it feels as though everything around you is coming apart, something better is about to be born. Not unlike weeding to make space for healthier growth. Not unlike hope. Not unlike tension between mother and son in those trials before flight from the nest.
Michele Ranard loves organic gardening. She is a mother of two, a professional counselor, and a freelancer.