Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~A.A. Milne
“This is a mint plant, mom,” says my nine-year-old son.
“No. It can’t be. I don’t smell any mint.”
You know right away when you have a mint plant in your hands. It has that tingling, calming fragrance that makes you want a nice cup of tea.
Why is it, I wonder, that I am the only family member who can identify a weed. My husband claims he just doesn’t know what a weed looks like. I’ll tell you what I think. I think this is a little too convenient. He’ll also claim that all those weeds have a right to be there and suggest we not get in the way of nature. My nine-year-old, I can’t blame him for trying. My six-year-old is off the hook.
I consider myself an expert in identifying weeds. They’re plants’ ugly step-sisters, pretending to be something they’re not, growing, intertwining every which way, trying to blend in with the other plants, trying to be plants. They never fool me. I can spot them a mile away.
I should know because I’ve had plenty of practice. When I was a child, my five siblings and I tilled the soil together for weeks, weeding every day after school, sweat dripping from our faces. It was our quality time together. It was our family project. No arguing, no back talking, just weeding together in harmony. This patch of soil was going to make everything all right. We planted tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, strawberries, bell peppers, zucchini, onions…did I mention zucchini?
This was a bit odd for us, since we were a family who did not eat many fruits and vegetables to begin with. Back then, we were having none of it. We had half a cow in a second freezer, thank you very much.
What I remember most clearly about the garden is that the zucchini did well, as I suppose is common. The only one who really liked zucchini was my mother. Now, I like it just fine, sautéed in a little olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Doesn’t it sound enticing? All guests left our house with one or two zucchini, whether they liked it or not. Oh no, not another zucchini. Please, no.
A couple of years later in our family counseling session, I don’t recall anyone ever uttering the words, “a family garden,” when asked “What is it that you want?” It wasn’t a part of anyone’s equation then. The garden, however, sparked light and hope for a time.
In my own backyard, weeds have no business, natural or not. They strangle my poor plants, choking them, suffocating them. They don’t belong. They need to be punished, pulled out. They must die.
“Mom, what’ wrong? Are you all right? I think you have a little dirt on your chin,” says my son.
“Oh, I’m, uh….just getting some weeding done.”
“I’m planting this mint,” he says fervently.
We argue briefly. He actually convinces me that once we plant it, we’ll be able to smell the mint. It is quite endearing how he went to the trouble of locating the extra potting soil and planting it by himself.
What could I say? The weed stays. In the meantime, I’m thinking the time is right to plant some zucchini.