I am at my daughter’s house for Mother’s Day. She has given over her office to be my guest room and she has put a vase of flowers in it for me. This is especially kind of her because she knows she is no longer the main attraction for my visits here. The main attraction now is her little boy, Julius, not quite four years old.
Yesterday we planted things in the small front garden of their city house. We moved a fescue. We took out a flowering shrub that needed more space than it could have. We put in some compact lavenders. We nestled a few succulents around the stepping stones. Julius handled the watering, pulling the curly hose along, pointing its spray nozzle at the new plants, and bending down to them with a big smile.
“They’re singing!” he said.
Why wouldn’t they be, with this small gardener catering to their thirst. He sings too, wet mud on his hands, spitting and humming to imitate the sound of bumblebees, processing life through the discovering eyes of new acquaintance.
But to himself he is not new. He is constant, and complete. He defends this self of his against attempts by surrounding adults to redefine it, even as he adjusts to new circumstances, which come at him constantly. He knows who he is. And if he asked I could tell him that just as he doesn’t feel young, I don’t feel old. You get bigger, older, wiser, and more experienced, but it’s still you underneath, acquiring all these traits. Some of them layer on more gracefully than others, and there are so many to acquire. I think we all know people who never manage it.
On Mother’s Day morning, sharing handmade gifts, we check the garden for signs of progress. The transplants all look happy.