It’s just plain hard to be four years old. Although “bounded in a nutshell,” still her world entertains infinite emotional space.
Case in point: the garlic. A couple weeks ago, we read about seed-planting in her High Five Magazine. A gardener by both heritage and training, He’en was smitten by the idea.
Magically, I had everything on hand to create two seed incubators. Into one, we lovingly placed a peeled garlic clove.
It’s hard to explain the intensity of the inspections those incubators endured for the next few days.
First, I had to talk He’en out of chucking the whole experiment when there were no immediate results. By “immediate” I mean “within three minutes.”
Next, we had to check the incubators at bedtime, morning time, and several times per day thereafter.
Thank goodness, the garlic cooperated. Within 24 hours, the bottom started to look a little hairy. Then a stripe of purple appeared at the top. Then, glory-be, actual roots appeared, along with an actual sprout.
He’en was delighted. Until today.
This morning she came downstairs cradling her young garlic plant. It was notably shorter. The roots looked dry. One leaf was crooked over at an inauspicious angle.
“Issss not good,” He’en sighed, stroking the droopy leaf.
I forebore to lecture her on the dangers of over-petting garlic. That ship obviously had sailed. But I thought a real pot, with dirt, might help. So I sent her outside with sprout and cup.
She soon returned, glowing, and presented me with the garlic plant snuggled into a half-inch of dirt.
“That’s really really good dirt, honey,” I praised her.
She poked a finger into the cup with great satisfaction, modestly confessing, “It hasss a few yiddow woks [little rocks].”
“Well, you can pick those out. But how about this: find a little more good dirt just like that, and snuggle the whole thing into the dirt just like you would pull blankets up to your chin at night.”
“Yep, plants like to be snuggled, right up to,” — I pointed — “about here, where the green starts.”
“I will snugg-ow it,” she agreed, stepping outside again.
I returned to the dishes for six seconds until a high-pitched yawp brought me back to the window.
He’en had dropped her cup. She had rescued the spout from the carnage and stood clutching it, sobbing and raspberry-faced.
I waited to see if she would recover on her own, but the grief was too great. Staggering tear-blinded, she was headed for the front door, cradling the now-naked garlic sprig.
Hugs and petting followed, along with a thorough inspection of the garlic.
See? It still has the top and all the leaves are there.
See? The roots are not broken.
See? It’s all in one piece.
Where did you find that good dirt?
Do you think there is more good dirt over there?
Are you sure? Okay, let’s go see.
Wow, yes, that is really good dirt.
But this is how a gardener learns. Back onto the pony she climbed, with a full cup of dirt and the garlic sprout “snuggow-ed” into it.
She perched on the kitchen stool and poured water over the whole thing, very pleased.
Then she wanted to return the garlic to her bedside table. Eyeballing the muddy mixture, I vetoed that idea and suggested several alternate spots.
This led to a go-round on how much sun it should get. “Dose windows haff sun,” she argued, pointing to the south-facing breakfast nook.
“That might be too much sun,” I temporized, envisioning sauteed garlic.
“How about heah?” she suggested, clambering up to the dining room table.
Biting my lip, I watched the muddy garlic cup travel up the ivory chair.
“Um, yes, that would be fine.”
But it wasn’t. Undaunted, she tried again:
“I want it in my woom.”
“Um, no. But let’s see . . . ” I hauled a little bench to the dining room window. “It can be here! In a special place all its own! And you can sit on this bench and visit whenever you want.”
She was not wooed by my false enthusiasm and reached for the cup again.
“I wan’ it in my woom,” she asserted.
But the cup chose this moment to tip a little, splashing a few tablespoons of mud slurry over the table and onto the floor. “Oh, oh, nooooo . . . ” tears started to well up again.
After another round of reassurances, we agreed that the garlic would, indeed, live in the dining room in the special-place-all-its-own. And all was sunshine again.
This gardening-optimism thing sure starts early.