A good day grows in the garden
A child's words provide a new way to consider things.
Our nearly 3-year-old grandson transformed potatoes and onions into apples with just a single word.
It didn't matter if he was wrong or right. Grandpa was just happy to have his company in the garden. We went there after the sandbox tractor, car and digger had played themselves out and he needed a new adventure. It was time to dig potatoes because their vines were dead and to lift the onions before they disappeared beneath a wave of weeds that are rushing toward maturity.
The squirrels, who seem to expect an early winter, chattered from the tree, alarmed that the invaders might steal the fallen walnuts.
Elliott struggled with the 5-gallon plastic bucket he insisted on carrying. He also wanted to handle the red-handled pointy shovel, but it was too big and sharp. Children, like adults, want those things that they shouldn't necessarily have.
He screamed when our first dig produced half a dozen marble-sized potatoes. His grandfather hoped for better, but drought, heat and played-out soil produced a near crop failure.
It doesn't really matter because the feeling of discovery in what the soil yields is not unlike the last moments before gifts are opened on Christmas morning. One is uncertain about what's hidden by the wrapping, but it must be something special.
Elliot rushed to put the spuds in the pail and, in his haste, fell into the holes left by the shovel.
"It hurts,'' he said, without crying. "Slow down" was worthless advice because youngsters rush to grow up and move on.
He will learn that garden work must not be hurried or its purpose is defeated.
Lots of digging yielded less than a pail before we moved on to the onions. Little hands easily tear them from them ground. Elliott throws an onion into his startled grandpa's midsection and laughs. My own children once did the same. They also searched for hidden treasures in the dirt, in part because they were told that the previous owner had buried money in milk cans in the garden.
A parent shouldn't lie. To make wrong right, their father scattered a dollar's worth of coins around the potato hills. Rachel found most of coins. The others were more interested in the odd-shaped spuds that resembled Mickey Mouse's ears. Sarah found a Bugs Bunny-shaped potato and kept it in her bedroom until it rotted. Elliott is a fan of Sponge Bob Square Pants, but we didn't find anything that looked like Bob.
Ice cream would be our reward for a good job done, but Elliott didn't want to go inside. He wrapped his hand tight around my little finger, and we started to walk around the lawn. He'd never trekked across the lawn before, so he would see things he'd never seen.
We passed the barren apple tree and reached a small incline that is rightfully considered a hill on our otherwise flat prairie. He giggles while grass clippings are thrown in his hair. Elliott had never rolled down a hill before, so Grandpa showed him how. The earth spun wildly after a couple of rolls, and joints that once were rubber became board stiff.
Elliott laughs, learns and explores the lawn's other mysteries that include pocket gopher mounds. His world has just gotten bigger, his grandpa's world is getting smaller.
Remembering past, enjoying present
Man-to-man now, we halt at the tree his mother planted in second grade and are amazed that it towers over us and stop again in the open space where the children made dandelion bracelets.
She had planned for a California college and a lawyer's career, and he dreamed of being the next Michael Jordan.
Life is magical, especially with a child's hand wrapped around your finger.
Only a little of the ice cream cone falls on the carpet, and neither Elliott nor his grandfather complains about it being nap time.
While his grandfather snoozes, his mind is a mix of the past, present and the wonder of what might be for a boy who calls onions and potatoes apples.