Reviving Terri’s Garden

Since I mentioned I’d be posting less until the Mozart Undead project is over, I’m using a piece I wrote more than 20 years ago. A friend recently dug it up. My editing skills have improved enough that I’ve cut it by at least a third. I hesitated to post it because I didn’t have any images. This weekend, my granddaughter played “paper store” in my office, and when I tidied up afterwards I ran across a painting done around the same time–Terri’s Garden!

Terri's little duplex garden.

Our little duplex garden.

Terri’s Garden

My friend Terri taught me that sometimes it’s better to do something half-assed than not do it at all.

Terri lived in a rural community outside Austin. To be nearer her friends and activities, she spent many weekends at our house.

I enjoyed having her around because she’s one of the sunniest people I’ve ever met. She made me laugh in a way I didn’t with my own children. She also cooked, cleaned up and did more than her share. I kept hoping her habits would rub off on my daughter.

Terri was an early riser with lots of energy, so she started messing around in the back yard. She weeded the flower beds and bought seed packages, six-for-a-dollar, planting sweet peas and zinnias, reminding me to water them.

I did little in our rented duplex’s yard other than hanging a couple of planters. I didn’t think I had time to take care of a garden. It loomed as a major commitment, eating up my evenings and weekends.

I even tried to discourage Terri. The landscaping timbers were rotting. The beds were a breeding ground for hackberry seedlings. I told Terri if I were going to put in a garden I’d want the timbers replaced and a load of topsoil brought in, neither of which I could afford.

She blithely ignored me. One April Saturday morning, as she checked to see if the seeds were sprouting, I paused in my housecleaning and said, “Come on Terri, let’s to go the nursery and get some tomatoes. I’ll buy ’em if you’ll plant ’em.”

We returned with eight tomato plants, one bell pepper, four jalapeños, Portulaca flowers and 40 lb. of potting soil. Not the truckload I’d envisioned, but considering the depth of my commitment, it was a start.

Terri planted everything, checking with me for placement and light needs.

Later that afternoon, when Terri had gone off with friends, I went out to get some fresh air. I noticed how weedy and ragged the yard looked beyond Terri’s little garden. So with gloves and my few tools I went out and hacked at the hackberries.

I also picked up trash and doggie-do, and after a sweaty hour the overgrown yard looked much better. I hosed down the patio and went in to take a shower.

Each time I looked out I was amazed at how nice it looked, with hanging begonias, geraniums, the tomatoes and peppers and promise of more flowers, and the neater lawn. I had invested about an hour-and-a-half of my weekend.

If I can’t do something just right I usually don’t do it at all. I’m intimidated by the big blank canvas, the recipe with too many ingredients. It’s false economy; the saved time isn’t necessarily put to better use.

Terri’s garden still had a few weeds. Twenty-two years later I don’t even remember if it thrived or shriveled. For a little while we had a garden.

Of course some activities do require precision, care and commitment: surgery, pilot-training, bridge-building come to mind. But if it’s a choice between a weed patch and a weedy garden, I’ll share the weeding, watering and (if we’re lucky) the harvesting with Terri.





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