On Mother's Day, Julie took the kids to church and then to visit her Auntie, who lives in a nursing home about an hour away, and I had the whole day to work in the garden. It was cool and sunny, a perfect day. When I arrived in the garden, though, I realized that the wheelbarrow -- the bright yellow, new, very expensive wheelbarrow -- was missing. The night before, Micah had been done with the garden, so I sent him ahead with the keys. I planned to follow minutes later, when I realized I couldn't lock up the shed because the padlock doesn't work without the key. So with every intention of returning, I left the wheelbarrow full of weeds in the middle of the garden and went home to attend to the squirrelly six year old. Upon my arrival at home, I was felled by an allergy attack of epic proportions, the sort that only sleep-inducing antihistamines will allay. And I forgot all about the wheelbarrow.
When I arrived in the garden on Mother's Day, I immediately noticed it was missing. I also immediately noticed that Mrs. Meadowland was standing on her front steps, talking to someone and shooting the evil eye at the garden. My rational mind knew that she had nothing to do with the missing wheelbarrow, but I wasn't feeling particularly rational just then. I burst into tears.
Another neighbor, a very dear man named Vlad, happened to be walking by just then and asked after me. I poured out all my venom at Mrs. Meadowland to poorVlad, who used every single one of his considerable 12-step counseling skills to talk me down. He could not have been more kind. He went to get me his wheelbarrow, and said he'd be back in a couple of hours to fetch it. He also recounted a story of a particularly difficult, bitter relationship he'd had, and how he decided to pray, for two solid weeks, that his adversary would get everything he needed. Vlad said that relationship was transformed, and there was nothing else he could attribute the transformation to. He also observed that I really need to figure out a way to let go of the specter of the Meadowlands, which always feels looming when I'm working in the garden, so that I can really enjoy myself there. "She's a small, bitter woman. Imagine being her," he said. I felt so very very cared for.
While I moved mounds of compost around in Vlad's old, beat-up wheelbarrow, I thought about what I wished for from the Meadowlands. All I want, I realized, is to have a cordial, polite, neighborly relationship.
A "Hey, how you doin?" sort of relationship. That's all. And I realized I could have that sort of relationship, even if they refuse to reciprocate. Maybe an hour later, Mr. Meadowland pulled up, parked in front of their house, and began walking to the front door.
"Good morning, Mr. Meadowland!" I called, in my most neighborly voice, but without stopping my work.
"Hi! How are you?" he called back. But I'm pretty sure he didn't see me, or know who had called out to him. Still, I felt better.
I will admit that when Mrs. Meadowland came out a little later, I couldn't screw up the courage to call out to her, but I'm working on it.
Later in the day, my neighbor Tom, who is helping me build a fence (okay, let's be real: I'm helping him build a fence; he's a master carpenter, and I can follow simple directions if he speaks slowly and clearly), stopped by, and apologized for not bringing the wheelbarrow back. He had taken it with him and a whole load of weeds that he was dumping at a worksite where they needed landfill.And I knew that. I had completely forgotten.
I don't really believe that things happen for a reason, I really don't. But I was feeling pretty grateful by the end of the day. It was, as at least half a dozen young men passing by said to me that day, a "Happy Mother's Day."
Photos, again, from my dear Donna.