My son has gone to England on an extended business trip. His two sons in Virginia keep in touch with him most days by Skype. Jake (8) has a tablet and Connor (11) an iPad. Jake has a 6th grade reading age. His brother Connor is similarly advanced. When we talk we never dumb down vocabulary, although I sometimes check their understanding.
When his father was three, I was reading a book about Paddington Bear to him, his twin and his four year old brother. “ ‘And Paddington’s hat blew off and fell into the river. Paddington was upset because it was a family heirloom.’ Do you know what an heirloom is?” I asked, knowing they didn’t. Three round pairs of eyes looked up at me. “It’s something precious that is passed down within families.” They looked thoughtful for a moment, then the four year old perked up, “I know! Like our coats!” Forty years later I’m still expanding children’s vocabulary.
Before he went to England Andre made two flower boxes for my patio: flowers in one box and vegetables in another. Jake shares his father’s love of plants and gardening. Jake planted the seeds I’d given him for his birthday. He sprinkled verbena and blue salvias in one box and Blue Lake beans, radishes and purple sprouting broccoli in the other. Four chitting potatoes from my pantry went into two pots. Ready, set, go!
Days pass between my seeing the boys, both busy with school and baseball teams, but thanks to internet, contact is easy. Last night I emailed Jake that frost may be imminent. He replied: “Cover the plants.” I draped protection over them and this morning, before sipping my coffee, went to check on the plantation. On iPad I photographed the plants and reported to Jake:
“The radishes look handsome this morning. Can you see beads of dew on the leaves? The broccoli on the right is small. I ate the first radish yesterday. It tasted peppery.
“The metal frame on the flower box is to discourage squirrels looking for nuts that aren’t there. They must know they didn’t plant any in that box but they probably hope another squirrel did, and are naughty enough to steal them. Squirrels have no morals when it comes to nuts.
“The flower box is looking seedy. Let’s ask Daddy when we should plant pansies after the frost. That big plant looks like a stray radish from a seed which probably stuck to your fingers when you were planting.
“The potatoes say ‘Hallo’ too. They are happy in their pots. They will be delicious one day with butter and a little mint.
“Some small insect is nibbling at our bean leaves. He thinks I don’t notice, but I do. He’ll be sorry if I catch him. That stick is where your melon seed met a violent end when a squirrel or a bird ate it. It was 3 inches tall at the time. It had a short but happy life.
“Yesterday I sat reading in the garden under the sunshade. I saw a worm crawling across the patio. He was finding it hard work. I wondered if the concrete was warm, because the sun was shining on it. I felt the patio with my bare foot and yes, it was a little warmer than a worm would wish; he had come a long way and there was far to go. I found some leaves and put one next to him but he was looking tired, so I put another leaf over to shade him from the sun’s rays. When I went back to check on him after supper, he had died and stuck a little bit to the concrete. I felt sorry. Why had he set out on that long journey, when the garden is full of lush grass? Some worms just lose their way, I guess. I noticed that a hairy caterpillar raced across the patio on multiple legs, as if he was jogging. I wondered when he will become a butterfly, and what color will he be?
“Your swing sways a little when the breeze blows. That seat on a rope was hanging from the tree when I bought the house. You could say I chose this house and garden with you and Connor in mind.
“Let me know when I can pick you both up to come and play. I love you.