There were so many trendy hobbies to choose from during the lockdowns of the past year. I’m not super into sourdough, and after six of my friends tried and failed to teach me how to crochet in ninth grade, I decided I did not want to relive that trauma. But I did get into gardening. I bought big ceramic planters for my backyard and painted them (because my gardening phase came right on the heels of my wall-mural painting phase), and I planted strawberries, wildflowers, and red peppers.
The strawberries and wildflowers took off right away. They grew and spread throughout the planter just like nature intended. And while the peppers took a bit longer, those divas soon began to poke their heads up as well. I started to think that my hands, which had failed so spectacularly at crocheting in 1995, might have just been saving themselves for their gardening dexterity in 2020.
I love my little garden. I water it every morning and I move the pots around so they get enough sun. I fret over them and I worry about their options for higher education and keeping them off of Parler.
I soon noticed that one of my pepper plants was growing much faster than the others. She was getting tall and wide and taking up a lot of space in the small container. I loved this precocious overachiever so much that I researched (by watching ⅓ of a 2-minute YouTube video) how to replant her in a larger pot. I worried that the move would damage her roots and her soul and our relationship, but even in this new environment, she continued to thrive and climb. I named her Audrey 3, and I was so enthralled with her and with myself, that I called my husband and kids out to the yard one day to bask in Audrey’s and my collective beauty and talent.
My son looked at Audrey 3 and noted how large she was compared to her siblings. And while I waxed poetic about how I had never fancied myself a gardener, but everything feels so different now that the Lord has chosen to partner with me in bringing forth food from the Earth, his eyes focused on a patch of tall weeds that live in a corner of our yard not far from Audrey and the gang. By the end of my rousing speech, the whole family was crouching down for a closer look at Audrey and the weeds.
And then I saw what had captured their attention…
Audrey did not resemble her pepper brethren. Her leaves were longer and pointier, and a bit fuzzy. She did, however, look remarkably like the tall, pointy, fuzzy weeds in the corner. Audrey 3 had been switched at birth.
I had been watering, repotting, and overidentifying with a weed. Audrey is never going to grow into a pepper. She will never graduate pepper school with honors and become part of a stirfry. I was devastated. My kids cried with laughter. Because they are horrible people. And I have plans to stir fry them when they least expect it.
The logical thing to do now is to uproot Audrey 3 to make room for the actual peppers. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I keep watering her and moving her into the sun. When they predicted snow this week, I brought the whole garden inside. First the strawberries, then the flowers, and then Audrey and the peppers. (Audrey and the Peppers is going to be the name of the band I form when we go into a fourth lockdown and I discover my hidden musical talents.)
Audrey is not who I thought she was, but I love her. And I want to see how tall she’ll get. And if she’ll flower. Maybe she’ll surprise me. Or maybe she’ll only ever be a funny story and a reminder that I am not a botanist or a person with eyes. But I am a parent. And parents are used to doing things that are dumb and futile.
Have you ever baked hamentashen with children? You spend time and energy and so much flour on baked goods that ultimately taste gross and have an average of 4.2 sides. You, my friend, have planted an Audrey.
Have you ever tried to clean up the kitchen before lunch on a day where everyone is learning from home? Or swept the floor when you know that you’re having everything bagels for dinner? You know you are being ridiculous, but you can’t help but plant an Audrey.
Do you remind your child to be careful and to make good choices as he runs out the door to meet his friends? Do you make your bed in the morning knowing full well you are going to mess it all up at the end of the day? Perhaps you bookmark motivational Ted Talks that you pretend you will listen to later. No one is listening to you, nobody cares about your rumpled sheets, and no one thinks for one minute that you are going to start a Fortune 500 company that employs the homeless by teaching them how to operate space lasers, but go for it, you plant that Audrey like a boss!
My kids laughed when they saw that Audrey had been moved inside. I explained that Audrey may not be what I expected, but she does not deserve to be cold. And though we continue to joke about my gardening fail, I think they are hearing the underlying message: that even if they have different ideas about how to grow and who to be, they will always be welcome to come in from the cold to bask in my graciousness and wisdom.
Sometimes we plant Audreys because we are stupid. Sometimes because we are out of touch. But sometimes we plant Audreys because we are hopeful, and we want to make things fun or nice or neat even though we know it will never last. Peppers are what we are, but Audreys represent all that we could be!! Audreys are our dreams for the future. They may be unrealistic, but they are worth keeping and watering. (Worth Keeping and Watering is the forthcoming hit single of Audrey and the Peppers. We are a one-hit wonder, because our follow-up song, Keeping Kids off Parler, is a flop. But we have a good run. Come bask in our time-limited fame.)