I was pregnant when my husband and I, who grew up here, moved back to Arizona. After years of living back east, my one request for our new house was “anything but desert landscaping!”
Of course the house we settled on had a brown gravel yard. But with the help of a landscaper friend, we removed rocks and cacti and planted grass and flowers. Then I had Hugh and began my simultaneous adventures in gardening and parenting.
Since then, there have been losses and gains on both fronts. I learned that both gardening and parenting involve trial and error and there are no money-back guarantees that everything will end up looking pretty.
I watched my baby grow into a boy and I saw most of my plants die. It turns out that there’s a very good reason people in Phoenix choose desert landscaping. It’s hard work to get plants to flourish here! Green vines scorched to brown the first summer; winter frost killed what was left.
Recently, Hugh and I were having a backyard picnic in a successful little patch of grass under the canopy of a large orange tree. I would love to take credit for that tree, but it was here when we moved in, planted decades ago by previous owners.
When I was more ambitious, I installed a drip line around the perimeter wall of our property and planted hibiscus every six feet or so. Most did not survive. I spent naptime one day removing the crunchy, dead plants, but had yet to fill the holes left behind.
Then I noticed something emerging on its own in the one of the holes left behind. The strong but small green trunk had thin branches and little green leaves sprouting from it.
It took me a moment to realize it was a tiny citrus tree. After my foiled gardening efforts, I was a little offended by how easily it seemed to be growing. But it made sense.
I have spent a lot of time researching gardening and parenting. I have stressed over which plants and preschools would be the best, which flowers and friends should surround us, which pursuits and shrubbery will endure. As I looked at the thriving little orange tree, I feared I’d been wasting a lot of time.
Big orange trees make little orange trees pretty easily. If I want my boys to grow into good men, perhaps their mother could stand to become a better version of herself.
Self-improvement ambitions are daunting—almost as hard as growing green lawns in the desert. But my sons don’t need to see “perfect,” they just need to see someone who’s trying her best. I have high hopes that some day, like the fragile white buds on the tiny orange tree, my efforts will bear wonderful fruit.