Friday morning, the strangest thing happened–I was early for work. Significantly early. I’m so used to chasing my tail in a rush that I decided to enjoy the 20 minutes of peace and sit in my car. That lasted about three minutes. As I stepped out of my SUV then paused to pick up the Diet Coke cans, peanut shells, unsigned permission slips, and My Little Ponys that came rolling out onto the pavement, Cindy pulled up in a white BMW convertible.
Y’all. Her car is so CLEAN. I peaked inside and the only thing on the passenger’s side was a little net with a nicely folded shopping bag tucked into it. Of course, the car is also so small that she had to pop the trunk to get her book out.
I blurted, “I can’t wait to have a tiny car that only has room for ME!”
She said, “Well, when my son turned 16, I gave HIM the minivan and bought myself a convertible.” Awesome. And so much easier on the insurance budget.
Drooling over Cindy’s tiny white convertible took me back to a hot Saturday afternoon in April, 2004. Richard had found an old rotor tiller at the dumpster that only needed a $3 spark plug. He would have torn up every inch of lawn and put in tomatoes if I had let him. On Friday night, he had tilled up a space for a vegetable garden and an herb garden. He was thinking about putting in CORN, but ran out of daylight, thank goodness.
So there we were on a muggy Saturday morning in the bugs and the heat, ripping out the flower beds that run allllllll the way across the front of this house. Monkey grass and ivy snarled every inch that wasn’t covered in old snaggly holly bushes. All of it was coming out. Every blade. Every prickly leaf.
The $3 tiller lasted about another hour. Pretty good for our investment, but it left us with hours of work left to do. We each got a spade and started digging up monkey grass and cussing. Four, five, six hours later and we finally had the beds cleared down to red dirt. Then came the cow manure–15 bags to stir into the red clay. Hoeing, raking, shoveling, stinking. Ah, homeownership. And it was HOT. H-dammit-O-dammit-T.
Richard was never one to quit halfway through a job or to say, “This can wait until tomorrow.” So as soon as we had the cow manure mixed in, it was time to plant azaleas. We toodled on over to Cofer’s and dropped a bunch of money on deciduous azaleas, native azaleas, and two little variegated specimens that he bought because they were called “Ashley Marie.” Sweet.
By dusk, we had it all done. You know how gardening is in the early stages–dinky and spindly. I was left underwhelmed after all our efforts. Neither of us could move. As we lay there, prostrate on the reawakening spring lawn, one of our neighbors drove by in a tiny white Miata with the top down. Her strawberry blonde hair sparkled in the last light of day. She was smiling, and as she drove past, slowly, she checked to make sure we weren’t laying dead in the front yard. Richard and I each raised a hand in a weak wave and she waved in return before cruising down the hill in her convertible, into the sunset.
In that moment, I so envied her car and her freedom and the energy she had to be kind. I rolled my head over towards him and said, “I bet her azaleas are already established. Pfffffft.” I felt myself looking forward, into the spring days ahead that wouldn’t require all that back breaking work. The days where I would awaken to a yard filled with flowers and a tiny white convertible all my own.
I still don’t have the silly car, but I do have the flowers. Every spring, they make me smile, remembering all that sweat and toil. Working on something together. I think he would have loved how they turned out.