image by sarah mccoy photo

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Astroturf Gardening

Cookie and I were on a fabulous adventure the other night, eating 50/50 burgers, of which half the meat is ground bacon, in a restaurant with the kids at 9pm.  While we were enjoying their happy-tired delirium and our garlic aioli, the lady at the next table expressed to her partner her surprise that anyone at all would want to have children.

This was odd because our kids were actually being pretty good, but more so because she was seated about 20 inches away from Cookie.

Have you ever heard this sort of enlightened condescension about either married or family life?  I know we in the married-with-children camp do our share of inexcusable condescending too, but I’m thinking now only of a particular brand of “I’ve transcended tradition and built a blithe world of Me.”  When I am confronted with this strain of modernity, I am struck less by offense than something between amusement and pity, and much harder to describe. 

Like how no argument could convince that girl that missing easy evenings out without the hassle of babysitters or making permanent, sacrificial adjustments to accommodate a spouse are to me what $200 dollars for Jimmy Choos might be to her, except that I will still find my purchase fashionable come fall.  But I think I’ve thought of a way to illustrate, at least to myself, our mutual lack of understanding.

It’s like a gardener who, spying around him neighbors covered in dirt and sweat and laboring endlessly, thought, “I won’t be such a fool!” and set about covering his plot of earth with Astroturf.  He filled pots and beds with silk flowers and gazed about in satisfaction, then leaned back in a hammock with a pina colada, and applauded his ingenuity, imagining the envy of his neighbors.

The other gardeners looked up, each in turn as they paused from their work, and noticed the spray of color and their neighbor in repose.  Then, each in his turn went back to his work of tilling and planting, watering and pruning.  The gardener in his hammock was mildly surprised that the others failed to follow in his pursuit of solitary pleasure.  And his neighbors were mildly surprised that he would content himself with pigmented silk when the fruits of their labors were sweet and living.