Quite a weekend around here...your StableMistress turned 50. Curiously, what bothered me was not the age itself, but the inarguable corollary that 20 years ago, I turned 30. The onset of those two prime-cut decades is indelibly easy to remember. In September 1987, in rapid succession:
...after a year of struggling to carve out a habitable oasis in this house, we moved my widowed mother into the downstairs apartment...
...where she seemed to thrive for one "honeymoon" month...
...and then I went freelance to pursue my dream of working as a writer/editor from home...
...and then my mother started to lose her mind, conveniently situated within vocal hailing distance of my home office two flights up.
What followed were two decades (ouch, keep saying it until you toughen up, girl, two decades) of freelancing and caregiving, snarled together in a wildly unpredictable roller-coaster ride, with motherhood added on halfway through. The cast of elders requiring my services as Medical Advocate and Hospital Fool-Killer expanded to include various well-loved aunts, uncles, parents-in-law, and one treasured friend. No longer just a medical writer, I would acquire intimate firsthand knowledge of wound care, mechanical ventilation, the titration of anti-psychotics, post-op care for cardiac surgery, and home morphine infusion therapy. I would learn exactly what Medicare does and doesn't cover (hint: "doesn't" doesn't begin to describe it) and would hire more than a dozen home health aides from as many different countries. Somewhere in the middle of it all, we had a baby, and kept trying to renovate chunks of the house.
The house, you've heard about; the baby is now 12 and magnificent; and the elders have all gone to their rest...but my resume, not surprisingly, is a little short on worldly achievement. (I keep recalling the midlife jibe of an erstwhile colleague as we car-pooled to our jobs at a publishing firm in New Jersey: "There comes a point when you realize you're never gonna win an Oscar.") But everyone around me has conspired to kick some sense into my sorry birthday butt. The Child and I went swimming yesterday at Brighton Beach, where summer refused to be over despite the lack of lifeguards, and then we all stuffed ourselves with Porterhouse at that temple of beefy ecstasy, Peter Luger's (probably the only place in Williamsburg that is hipster-free). A wise friend of mine who also recently turned 50 reminded me to embrace God's mysterious will, and then danced with me on the sidewalk outside our church; and my garden gave me an astonishing gift of raspberries.
The thing about the raspberry canes is, they are out of control. This spring, after years of offering up a few berries a day, they marched right over the vegetable bed and pumped out two successive flushes of fruit. This weekend, they outdid themselves, knowing that the Child and I cannot resist them. The entire garden is neglected and wild now; cherry tomatoes and some unidentified squash sprouted from the compost and, as usual, I get suckered into sparing them to see what they'll produce.
But the garden is full of gifts: a lilac-like buddleia given to me as a shoot by one friend, along with the third generation of Thai peppers sprouted from the long-ago dinner-garnish of another friend (the dancing one--he also cooks). Plus, a feathery white wild clematis of some sort has scrambled up the rosebush--where on earth did it come from?
Every year, the garden does this ...extinguishes much of what I've planted with hope and ambition, and instead offers up its own tangled harvest. Time for acceptance, and possibly a Raspberry Dance.
...anything that grows for us
is wild or thrives by luck, our prized
but accidental garden full
of unruly roses, unlooked-for lilies.
Our blow-ins have become perennials
re-christened every spring: Windbloom,
Randomflower, Golden Come-What-May,
Weather's Will, Common Chance-Blossom.