“I’m comin’, Daddy,” my daughter answers.
Around here there are many signs of approaching spring, everything from the return of the robins to the spousal ducks waddling around our house. But nothing quite says spring like tilling the garden and planting what will become, with plenty of sweat and prayers, future groceries.
I like planting a garden. Like getting into the dirt. Especially on a cool Saturday in May when the sun’s out and there’s a gentle breeze blowing off the mountains.
I generally do very well keeping my priorities in line. I know what comes first and what doesn’t. The problem is that very often those priorities shift according to both season and day, which is a fact that certain small members of my family cannot comprehend.
For instance. A Saturday in March will revolve around a trip to Charlottesville or pizza with my folks. But a Saturday in May will revolve around one thing and one thing only: baseball. And when that Saturday afternoon game features the Yankees? Let’s just say I’m focused and leave it at that.
And yet here, now, my focus is not just on the game. It’s on the fact that the game started ten minutes ago and my daughter is taking her sweet time planting the beans.
I stand watching her, swinging the hoe in my hands like a baseball bat and tapping my boot into the dirt in the hopes that my aggravation will drain out of my foot and into the ground. She is crouched in front of me, slowly placing one seed a time into the furrow, then gently pressing down on it with a small finger.
“Honey,” I tell her, “you don’t have to do it that way. You sow beans.”
“How can you sew beans?” she asks.
“Not sow, sew,” I answer, then realize how absurd that sounds. “Like this.” I take a handful of seeds and wave my hand from side to side, spilling them into the dirt.
“I don’t think that’s right, Daddy.”
“Trust me,” I say, glancing at my watch. Fifteen minutes late. I’ve missed Derek Jeter’s first trip to the plate. “You trust me, right?”
“Then whaddya say we do it that way?”
“Why? You said you trusted me.”
“I do, but you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Oh. Okay, then.
“Why should we do it your way?”
She rises, dusts off the knees of her jeans, and looks me in the eye. “You’re not treatin’ the seeds right, Daddy” she says. “You’re just throwin’ them. I’m planting them.”
“But we’re gonna just cover them with dirt,” I explain. “Either way, they’re just planted.”
She shakes her head. “No, Daddy. With your way they’re just planted. With my way, they’re planted with love.”
“I take each bean and tuck it into the dirt, like it’s going to bed. And then I kiss it with my finger. And then I say in my head, ‘Please God, let this seed grow.’ Then it’s planted and I can do the next one.”
“So they have to be planted with love?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says.
“But if they have food and water, they’ll grow anyway.” I have her there. Think so, anyway.
“People grow with food and water, too,” she says. “But don’t they grow better with love?”
My foot stops tapping. I swing the hoe around, transforming it on one motion from a Louisville Slugger to a pole to lean on.
I gaze upon this little girl, bundled against a brisk May wind. I am her father. The provider. The food and water to her life. And she is my daughter, the fragile seed I’m coaxing to grow.
But I want her to do more than just grow. I want her to bloom. And I know she won’t with just food and water. She needs love, too.
The sort of love that comes from ignoring a ballgame and spending some time with my daughter in the garden on a cool Saturday in May.
So we stood there, the two of us, planting each bean one at a time until the sun snuck over the mountains and said goodnight.
June 29, 2009
And the beans? Well, judge for yourself:
Looks like my daughter’s on to something.
I missed that Yankee game, but I’m certain I watched the highlights. I can’t remember who won, though. Can’t remember how many hits Derek Jeter got or how many innings Andy Pettite went. Can’t remember any blown calls by the umps or all the things the announcers said that I disagreed with.
But I will always carry the memory of a father and his daughter planting four rows of beans, all with love. And I will remember that whatever planting I do in life needs to be done with love as well.