Monday, October 29, 2007

My Husband's Growing Obsession

When my husband started volunteering to run errands, I should have recognized something was up. “The kids need to get haircuts this weekend and I have to go grocery shopping.” I’d say. He’d gallantly offer, “Why don’t you stay here and relax while the babies nap and I’ll get the haircuts and the shopping done.” Three hours later, he returned. I figured it had just been a crowded day at the barbers and that they’d eaten lunch, but then I discovered the skeletal shopping delivery (milk, bread, peanut butter and diapers). I thought he stayed outside the rest of the afternoon to avoid explaining the groceries. Then the kids came in and asked for food.

Over time, our garage began to grow cluttered with specialized equipment that in my horticultural ignorance, I could not identify. Catalogs advertising heirloom tomato plants and hedgers and designs for plots began to litter our bedroom. A plastic green house was set up in the bathroom to grow vegetables from seeds, rendering my tub unavailable for human use for six weeks. Then things began to get out of hand.

Having ignored the warning signs, his habit became so consuming he no longer sought to hide it. For Mother’s day, he landscaped the front entrance and mulched the trees that line our driveway. He put in a garden commemorating our son’s high school mascot and colors to celebrate Father’s Day. When my birthday rolled around, I got a garden as a gift, complete with a contemplative looking Greek goddess statue. I had hinted how much I’d like a real dining room table. Staring at the white plaster half naked woman in my back yard, as my husband talked rapturously about the newly planted shrubs and the color alternation and which shrubs required more shade and how much dirt it took to create the raised bed effect, I wondered how much this present set us back.

Not wanting to seem ungrateful for his time or labor or gift, I began an investigation into the past three months of bills to determine the scope of his growing obsession. I went online to discover the twelve signs of gardening addiction. Did he frequently have dirty finger nails? Check. Had he recently bought sun block for himself, asked about the water bill or considered getting a name brand hardware store credit card for rewards? Check. Check and check. Did he listen to radio programs that discussed lawn care? Check. Had he talked about renting a back hoe to create a bigger plot? Check. Was he resentful of the lawn service that mowed the grass weekly? Check. All the signs were there, it was time for an intervention.

“Dear? I know how you love to garden…” I began with a practical approach.
“See how the new shade tree will cover the more fragile flowers. And it should enhance our property value.” He said happily.

“But we’re on a strict budget…I’ve been totaling the expenses, we’re spending more on soil than food …”

“I’m growing food. Have you tasted the German Queen tomatoes? They’re heirloom. They look ugly but in my opinion, there isn’t a better tasting one…here, have a cherry.” And he popped a freshly picked tomato in my mouth.

Undeterred, I held up the credit card charges, having highlighted the garden related expenses. “We were going to save for some furniture, grown up stuff? Stuff we wouldn’t have to cover with a table cloth to serve food to company?”

“Like the rocks I got from the quarry? They frame the pond better than just a hedge I think.” He popped a yellow pear tomato in my mouth.

“How much did that cost?” I asked after I finished chewing.

“No interest for twelve months. You need to savor the experience of the tomato, try eating it slowly.” He popped another in my mouth.
“You’ve been to a quarry?”

“To buy rocks.”

“Wait, quarries have payment plans?”

He breathed in the fresh air as the sun cast beautiful deep shadows on our lawn, framing the whole yard in a lovely pink glow. “Oh,” he sighed, “I just love gardening. It’s relaxing to me.”

“Well yes but…” I was failing, reaching for another tomato even as I spoke. “But it’s getting a bit much don’t you think? I mean, you are paying for rocks.”

Handing me two more tomatoes and a few for himself, he sighed.
“Okay, okay, I’ll cut back I promise. I won’t go to the hardware store or the nursery unless I check with you first.”

Satisfied, I returned to the inside of our home, feeling like I’d just grounded a kid for studying too much. He looked dejected as he wound up the hose and lovingly cleaned his trowels to let them air dry before storage.

Going cold turkey gardening proved difficult, as his beautiful beds needed watering, feeding, trimming and in the case of the tomatoes, harvesting. Daily trips to care for our grounds proved too powerful an enticement to resist, so he did the only thing an admitted addict can do to cope with said obsession, attempt to convert additional followers.

First, he conscripted our daughters for watering duties. “Daddy said I could play with the hose!” Then he went after our sons with the lure of power tools. Imagine the thrill of an eight year old son being allowed to cut away dead wood with a saw. “Glorious manly work at last!” His smile said to me.

Converting the watchdog of the operation was a problem. Gardening has never been a relaxing experience for me, I kill plants. I never plan to, I just do. I overwater, forget to provide adequate shade and constantly wonder why they die in my care. If plants are so temperamental and fragile, how do they survive without competent help? My husband put my skills for destroying flora wherever I touch to their best possible advantage and made me the official weeder of the grounds. I’m good. I’m real good, and I get first pick of the German Queens as compensation.

So now we are a steady growing colony of gardeners and I have come to at least appreciate these lovely grounds he’s creating. It’s become a family weekend event, with kids gathering sticks, digging up baby potatoes, arguing over who grew the watermelon. And I smile at it all, wearing my garden gloves and talking about how black mulch sets off the side of our home better. Not only did he create a codependency in me with regular fixes of heirloom tomatoes, sugar snap peas that really snap and unbelievably tender squashes, he also bought me a few nice table cloths.

So I’ll live with the quality press wood furniture a little longer, at least until winter anyway.

1 comment:

ZLA said...

I love it and can really relate to this one! Keep up the good work!

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