“I have an idea what I want to get you for your birthday,” she said. “But I’m kind of afraid.”
I looked at my mother-in-law when she said that and wondered aloud.
“Well, now you just have me so curious,” I said.
And she giggled, but never gave it away.
Saturday evening on my birthday, after my class and while my sweetheart is trying to make plans to take me for dinner—they stop by.
“Your birthday present is in the garage,” she says.
I let my curiosity lead and there it is—amidst the boys’ bicycles and that red wagon I used to pull my babies around the neighborhood in.
“It’s red,” I say, and I feel excitement start to curl in my stomach. I feel my fingers itching to fill that wheelbarrow full of rich dirt and roll it around back to start on the garden.
She laughs at my delight.
“Laura, Ted says that wheelbarrow you are using is for masonry. I told the salesgirl you need something light. Something you can manage.”
I remember how many times I’ve strained under the weight of that heavy black wheelbarrow—because, weren’t these things made for filling? And no matter that it might weigh more than me, that’s what I always do—fill it up past the rim each time I use it.
It’s just like her to think about the heavy load I push along.
I take my new wheelbarrow for a spin.
“It is really light!”
And it waits me out through a busy day and a night of rain and too much other work. But on Wednesday, after Bible study, I stop and pick up a few bags of compost and garden soil and some lettuce seeds. There’s peat moss in the crawl space under the house from last year and all mixed together…it will be perfect.
I’m already behind on the planting.
I put the first scratches on my new red wheelbarrow when I mix all that dark loess together in her bed. They marry well and I am rich as I dig my fingers deep and till. I shovel four loads into my raised bed and stand up on the edges to work the soil in with the Claw. The sun is hot but the breeze stirs cool air on my skin and I am happy.
I smooth the rich layers with a level and press the moist cool with my hands. I dig a furrow down one side and carefully scatter lettuce seeds. I have the memory of last year’s crop to urge me on and I am wishing I had gotten some green onion bulbs, maybe some carrots too.
I talk to God about it, we make plans, and then I lift up a little song and let the wind carry it. It’s impossible not to think of the little girl me as I do these things. It’s impossible not to think about my mother. Did she know what she was planting in me when she hoed potatoes in the hot sun with her four children pulling up weeds between rows of corn?
In between breaths I remember it’s one of my favorite people’s birthdays. So I finish the planting and wash my hands. I’ll have to water down those seeds later. I don’t smell the best but it’s an honest smell, so I run out and buy a bouquet of spring flowers and show up on her doorstep. We sip wine in the afternoon on her back porch and the wind blows through and the trees lean into our conversation.
And on the way home, the rain comes. In my mind I can see my little seeds—their tiny shells soaking through…that bit of sleeping life being coaxed into waking.
When I pull into the garage, that red wheelbarrow peeks out at me. And I think how much better life is when we help to hold each-other burdens. And I know the struggles of this world are meant to be softly strewn at the feet of One who can carry them easily. But sometimes it takes some walking to get there. And how the walk is made lighter by some glad companions.
How lovely it is to link arms and walk to the cross together.
With my sweet friend Jennifer today:
And with the lovely kd: