Friday, August 17, 2007


An old friend of mine called to see me today. Unexpectedly. We hadn't seen each other for quite a while.

As she entered the black hole of calcutta, one of the residents ambled past and bid her a very polite, semi-coherent "Good morning"through a haze of hair and sleepiness. Even though the clock indicated that it was, indeed, 2.30 in the afternoon. She mumbled, incoherently, back at him. Very fitting response. We continued the arduous trek to the kitchen in search of the cup of tea, without which, no conversation can even be considered. Arriving at the kitchen, we are met by apparition No.2. "Would ye like tea? I've just made a pot... Oh hello" .. and promptly breezed past us to attend to more pressing matters, such as blow-drying her hair. Tea poured, milked and sugared, we settled in to catch up.

"Jaysus", she said, "What ARE you feeding them?"

I looked, rather blankly, at her and said "What do you mean?"

"They're HUGE" she gasped, "the last time I saw them, they weren't THAT big. My God, but they're growing like weeds!"

I smiled. It had been ages sinceI'd heard that expression.

We are a tall breed. So it really should come as no surprise to anyone that the offspring are most definitely not vertically challenged. But then again, I'm used to us. And the fact that we tower over most people.

We went on to regale each other with insights into our lives and the exploits on the roads less travelled. The ones that are covered in weeds. These roads, that are fraught with danger for any unsuspecting, beautiful, wild, growing creation. The danger of annihilation, extermination, all in the name of beauty, order and progress. The rooting out of undesirables. The hidden treasures that lie locked in these paths strewn with God's greenhouse's finest. The simple splendour of it all. The essential role that these misfits play in nature's landscape. The other misfits that are ruining the planet. We went a good way to solving the problems of the world. If we had our way.

Being very polite and well brought up, she enquired about the garden. She marvelled at the lush growth. The variety of shapes, sizes, aromas and colours. The exotic and the mundane. She enthused over the, hitherto unknown, varieties lurking behind the buddha. She expressed surprised disbelief when I told her that the vast majority of my treasures were, in actual fact, weeds. She wondered how I found the time. Not being a gardener herself, she was somewhat impressed. The best kind of visitor one can have.

She stayed for a couple of hours and we laughed uproariously, indulging ourselves in the madness and lunacy that we can both slip into as easily as an old, favourite Tshirt. Having conversed, at length, with the two apparitions, her parting shot to me was "They're 2 fine weeds, you have there ... and all of this without a gardener?"

Which got me thinking.

Dangerous territory, this thinking.

Like all parents, I suspect, we had the the grandest of plans and the highest of ideals when we embarked on the parenting journey. We struggled with the childhood ailments, the temper tantrums, the insecurities, the fluctuating hormones, the major and minor disappointments that we couldn't protect them from. We rejoiced with them in their triumphs over the intricacies of jigsaws, reading, bike riding, sharing, loving and growing. We were torn between loosening the ties that bind and tightening the leash. We did it all to the best of our ability. And, sometimes, we doubted ourselves. A little. Especially, when others were critical of our way. The outsiders nodded their heads knowingly when no.1 son pierced his ear and his tongue and when no.1 daughter dyed her hair a cobalt blue. "Wild" they muttered sagely. "No good will come of that" they whispered. I could hear, again, from the archives of an angst- ridden teenager, the old biddies, who used to remark as I passed by "That one, she's like a weed at the side of the road ... wild, wild, wild ... she'll come to a sticky end".

We suffered the pitying glances and the insufferable patronising with remarkable resilience.

And we continue on the journey, regardless.

We never did feel the need of a gardener.


Jay said...

That was lovely.
I think I'll be looking at the lawn a little differently tomorrow.

Tanya Brown said...

My money is on your "weeds".

I once read a piece which dealt with the author's reaction to her neighbor's "wild" son. He had waist-long hair and I forget what else. She was quite horrified. A hoodlum, she thought.

The next time she saw him, he was clean-shaven and the hair was gone. What had happened to it? Oh, he'd been growing it to make wigs for cancer patients, and once it got long enough he had it lopped off. He was, it turned out, quite a nice young man once she got past looking only at the outside.

Cobalt blue sounds like a pretty color.

Aunty Evil said...

We tend to be quick to judge. I drove past my mothers one day and saw her talking to some wild looking fellow in the street. I doubled back to check out what was going on, they were gone. Minutes later I called her from home to be told that "yes, I am fine, he was offering to carry the shopping for me". I felt ashamed of myself, but would do the same again! :)

Aunty Evil said...

Sorry Isabelle, I dropped the ' out of mother's. I actually only have one mother...


Diana said...

Lovely, indeed. I find weeds most interesting and forgiving and full of surprises.

I am happy to let them grow, as long as they don't try to choke everything else out. Then I go all whup-ass on them.

mcewen said...

Great post. My eldest is 26 so I have the benefit of seeing both end.

By the by, on your profile, the top left link [my web page] don't link. Luckily the bottom one does.
Best wishes

Molly said...

What to say. You're too wise for a little blister! Giving them room to grow and to experiment, within reason, is much wiser than having rigid rules,and
inflexible expectations. ya done good....

Isabelle said...

Thanks for that correction, Aunty! I hadn't actually noticed! Sorry, Rise, to be haunting your comments.

Teaching makes one realise that young people who have made themselves look (to my eyes) strange can be lovely inside... Though I have to admit that I'm glad that my own young people have never pierced or tattooed themselves. I'm very squeamish.

sMC said...

rise.. one of my weeds was a thorn in the side for a decade. (Have you read the very bottom of my blog) But now when we visit we are asked to take our shoes off at the door. ahh well I always say a quiet prayer of thanks when I do so. :)

meggie said...

Perhaps the weeds that run wild in youth are the steady reliable ones in maturity. Everyone deserves a chance to be a little weedlike.

mjd said...

Your pictures are lovely and your post is insightful. Weeds are merely wildflowers in a different location. Like wildflowers , weeds can have special and distinct beauty.

crafty said...

I always let the nettles grow, they are good for the soil you know.

Gardenening children? What a horrifying thought, it brings visions of pruning and shaping a topiary to mind. A little support while the trunk is growing stronger could be good thing though.

My mother didn't speak to me for a whole day when I came home from uni with a pierced nose, but she got over it. So did I.

Stomper Girl said...

Lovely post Rise. Nice to have such friends and to have proved the disapproving chorus wrong.

riseoutofme said...

jay ...thanks for visiting!

tanya ... the cobalt blue hair was lovely on her, but she tired of it fairly quickly and moved on to try various shades of red, brown and is now back to the natural blonde!

aunty ...we all tend to be quick to judge the unusual, I think. I'm definitely a little slower now, thanks to being on the receiving end of the raised eyebrows for many years!

diana ...have had numerous whup-ass moments myself!

mcewen ... my eldest is just 26 too ... we could probably pen a mighty tome on the intricacies of garden management!

molly ... we come from the same stock ...

isabelle ... I drew the line many years ago on tattoos ... piercings will close up, hair will grow out but tattoos ... too permanent ... too risky ...they had to be satisfied with henna!

birdy ... I now HAVE to do a mad cleaning, tidying scatter around the house BEFORE no.1 daughter comes home ... exhausting!

meggie ... maybe ... but they certainly should have the OPPORTUNITY to grow a little on the wild side!

mjd ... their beauty yes, but I absolutely love their resilience ..

crafty .. topiary and pruning ....
WAY out of my league ...more of a live and let live policy with a little damage limitation thrown in ... I remember making nettle soup once ... absolutely GROSS!

stomper ... not out of the woods yet ... but can see a clearing!

Voyager said...

Ahh, this resonates. My son got a tatoo at age 14. He came home with it one day, having earned the money for it babysitting. He explained that the circle on his bicep was a pattern of stylized frigate birds, a coming-of-age tatoo in Polynesia. After the shock, I was proud that he had carefully thought out and chosen a meaningful symbol. To anyone else looking at it, he was just a punk.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Weeds are just flowers growing in an unwanted place.

My favorite weedy flower is the dandelion. It's uses are diverse and it's a lovely, sturdy blossom. I especially like the magic part when they've dried up and you can make a wish and blow the little helicopters all away.

Weeds indeed.
God bless them.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

mikaelah said...

oh this is just great! yay for the weeds ...long live the weeds!!!

Pauline said...

No wonder I like you and your writings - welcome to my garden!

fifi said...

Weeds, just plants in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My weeds are not half so pretty as yours, and they make me itchy as well.