Sometimes I look at our gardens in awe. Eighteen years ago, early in that long summer during which we waited for our daughter to arrive, our back yard was a parcel of grass-strewn briers. We kept ourselves busy pulling out the weeds, loosening the soil and installing flowering vegetation we hoped would come back again and again.
That year, we took pictures of our house, our town, the place in which our child would grow. We mounted the results in a photo album and delivered it to the adoption agency to circulate to prospective birthmothers. One of the photos we placed between those pages was of a younger me, baseball hat on to protect from the May flies, leaning on a shovel. In the picture, what is now a garden erupting beyond its boundaries, is mostly dirt. We'd installed a few more plants by August of that year, the joyful month when our daughter finally came home.
We held her first birthday party and her fifth on the patio that sits just below the main garden, an area of cement pavers where she also took turns pedaling a plastic cart with her next door cousins. We took pictures before her first dance recital, before she left for band competitions as well as photos with her friends the day of the eighth grade dance. If we lined up all the images together, we could watch our daughter turn from a plump toddler to a leggy pre-teen to a mature young woman, while the plants behind her grow taller and thicker and spread across the space.
This week, we’ll take prom pictures; a week after that, she’ll stand in front of the garden in her cap and gown. It’s likely we’ll grab the camera again in August, her birth month—the same month she came to us and the same one in which she’ll depart for college.
She’ll be on loan to us after that, around again only for too-brief vacation stays. Otherwise, she’ll be tilling a life comprised of events for which we won’t be around to take pictures. Back home though, the garden will be there, multiplying, spreading and moving—reminding us that we’ve done a good job fertilizing and mulching and nurturing both the soil and our girl; and that it’s the right time for us to divide ourselves, so our lovely young woman can flourish in new earth.