This weekend we worked on the yard. My husband has lived in our house for more than six years and the yard was not a priority. While he mostly neglected it, his parents, who live just down the street, tried hard to keep some kind of order – maintaining plants and cutting the grass. I headed outside at 8 am on Saturday morning to get started knowing that the task ahead was monumental. There were layers and layers of leaves and pine needles as well as sticks and branches that had to go before any real work could begin. Three hours later we had made a dent but there is still so, so much to be accomplished.
All of this work had me yearning for a life that once was. When I was a little girl growing up in Pakistan, we had a gardener or maali, Salim, who worked hard to keep our yard in tip-top shape. He would often bring me gorgeous bunches of flowers after I came home from school. To this day, I think of him often. I long for him to come and plant a bank of climbing sweet peas and create little groupings of white and purple alyssum.
However, to me, our yard was much, much more than beautiful flowers. I spent much time outside. Whether it was building homes for ladybugs (that the maali later destroyed), playing in my UNHCR tent (strangely a gift from a refugee) or pretending to be Maid Marian in a game of Robin Hood, our yard was a great place to let my imagination run wild. I still have a great mental picture of my eighty-something year-old grandmother sitting out in the yard under a shade umbrella with a huge hat on dressed in tweeds in 90+ degree weather.
As the vision for our yard continues to develop in my mind, I realized on Saturday that it is entirely different than my husband’s vision for our yard. Mine combines a rambling English garden, a vegetable garden, and a composting section. I picture a swing on the porch, a bench under the tulip tree and a lovely painted tiny house in the corner. To accomplish this, about forty percent of the garden would have to be uprooted. My husband will uproot very little if that. In his mind, if it is living it should stay. That means a killer vine trying to attack the laurel plants should be allowed to live on. My husband comes from the great Hungarian tradition of arguing your point until you win and I come from the great Scottish Presbyterian/Southern etiquette tradition of smiling and nodding while all the time disagreeing. This makes for interesting communication. Of course, if you know anything about either Hungarians or Scots, then you can surmise that both my husband and I are stubborn. On Saturday morning, I wanted limbs chopped and hacked out of the way and he simply wouldn’t have it. I came to realize that while I had a great sentimentality for the garden that was to be, my husband had a great sentimentality for the garden that was.
Before he moved into this house, my husband’s grandparents lived here. So, many years before it became his home, it was a place that he visited and spent much time in. On Saturday, my mother-in-law commented that each plant reminded her of something specific. There were so many memories just in the yard alone.
I long to have a yard like the one of my childhood – both aesthetically pleasing and a great place to spend time. The difficulty is finding away to compromise so that both my husband and I are happy with the end result. I’m not quite sure how we are going to get there but I will keep you posted.