8.31.2018

ON BLUEBERRIES


I think that a lot of my life might be marked by the curse of transition. Do you know about this feeling?

I've begun to suspect it might be part of my life's purpose to never stay still in one place for long enough for me to get comfortable. Maybe.

Maybe I'm like a robin, feverishly putting together a nest for a season that she knows will likely fall out of the tree within a week. Best case scenario, it keeps a couple of babies safe for a couple of weeks, and then they grow up and leave her, and then she's all, Now what?

I've moved around so much. I look around me sometimes and nothing feels like home. I've lived what has felt like so many different stories; maybe part of the same book series, maybe not, I'm not totally certain. I know it's all leading to good things, so I keep my wits about me, though a lot of the time it can be easy to feel a little bit frustrated about it.

But then I wonder, might this be coming from somewhere else, maybe? Like, somewhere I can't help. Somewhere deep. Somewhere in my blood.

To cross plains and back, that takes a certain type, doesn't it? To seek out a better life somewhere else, to accept missions and callings and willingly strap your wagon to someone else's horse? Maybe that's the pioneer heritage I carry with me, as a former Mormon. (a foMo.)

You know what we did, we sang as we walked, and walked, and walked, and then we planted shit.

Maybe your Mormon ancestors drove their wagons to Utah and planted fruit trees and beets. Well, my ancestors took their wagoneers down to Arizona and planted air conditioning units. My other ancestors in North Carolina planted a love of music, as well as moonshine in the bathtub. My Stanger great-grandparents in Southern Oregon used to plant their garbage in their back yard . . . but I think that had less to do with growing things and more to do with . . . well, something else.

Oh! Know what!? There's also a (long-debunked, I'm assuming) family legend about one of us Lovin predecessors who was traded to the gypsies for a sack of potatoes. For all intents and purposes, I'm calling that one gospel.

But I was thinking about this the other night as I was assessing the situation with my patio plants.

Look, it's not as if I'm a terrible gardener. This time around we all made it a full three months before totally crisping out! And am I so proud!? Yes of course I am so proud! Though now of course it IS a dead plant mausoleum out there, and I'm not sure how I wish to proceed just yet.

At the beginning of summer it was this lush and beautiful space. I was just getting a handle on our new place out west. The towels had found their closets, the spices made sense in the drawers they were in. It smelled amazing and sweet out there on that patio when I'd walk out into the chilly night air after putting Huck to bed. I'd feel maybe the smallest twinges of "NOW this is home," which is a twinge of a feeling I've think I've been ardently chasing for nearly all of my adult life.

This isn't my actual Portland home. Not in the slightest. It's a starter home, in a sprawling, slightly crummy apartment complex, and I'm wondering if I'll ever land in a house someday, or maybe an apartment downtown? And how terrible will it be when that day has to come when I have to pack up everything AGAIN and do this ALL. OVER. AGAIN? And how long do you think I can put that off, do you think? But how nice will it be when it's done and it's settled, and THIS TIME IT IS UP TO ME, and so that thought keeps me going.

And what if I could just chuck all these dead plants out over the side of the patio and forget they ever happened??

Three tomato plants, two baskets of lavender, one cherry tomato plant, a single pot of strawberries, and two bushels of blueberries. Plus an odd assortment of miscellaneous herbs.

Oh! And begonias.

The three tomato plants yielded four pathetic looking tomatoes the size of tiny apricots that should have tasted depressing but were actually pretty decent. The cherry tomato plant gave me six or so, they never even made it past the threshold of the door before being eaten. The strawberry plant hid her strawberries so well that they were always dried up by the time I even saw them, and then the itching after I'd pick them! Never again, strawberry.

And then there were the blueberries. Something like unto five heaping handfuls of blueberries I harvested this summer!! Blueberries in your cereal! Blueberries in your oatmeal!! Blueberries in your dreams!!!!

Blueberries the likes of which this world has never SEEN!


BTW, what is it with our president and that "the likes of which" nonsense? It fills me with so many questions whenever he says it (which is always). Is it wrong of me to assume that whenever I hear it from somebody else that they're probably KGB? It reminds me bigly of Tommy S. and his "eeeeeeven Jesus Christ" prayer endings, and the way it was quickly picked up by the rest of the apostles . . . .

Write your theories about this in the comments.

And then SMASH that Like button!

Huck is going to be eight this fall (dunking age!), and he is absolutely rocking the second grade. It was really hard for me when he was gone for the summer. I found my whole life schedule with him the day he was born, and ever since then life felt grounded. But any time he's missing now, I feel completely up in the air. All up, all up to me, nothing to tie me down, nothing to anchor me in place. Just wafting. It's very fun and freeing but mostly it is miserable.

He's been home now for the school year for two whole weeks. And it's been bliss. At night before bed we watch animals videos from The Dodo on Instagram, and then Huck will come up with some impressively dorky puns for whatever we're seeing. He's the wittiest kid I know, and sends me into genuine laughing fits at least once a day. He has terrible taste in YouTubers. He'll eat whole plates worth of asparagus and steamed broccoli, he loves Diet Dr Pepper, he doesn't like cheese, and he does his best to only pick his boogers and eat them when he thinks I'm not looking. I love this kid, oh my gosh, I love his freaking guts.

Huck still sometimes doesn't fully understand what it means to have divorced parents.

"Yeah, you're divorced, but you're still married . . . you just live in separate houses."

"Do you think that you and my dad will ever get un-divorced?"

"Back together plz," he texted his dad from my phone one night.

Divorce is the kind of thing that's easier to explain to a four-year-old, I suspect. You get to stress the family-togetherness and the awesomeness of having two whole bedrooms, and their follow-up questions are usually contained to, "will you still love me the same?" and, "can I get the new Paw Patrol helicopter?"

These days the follow up questions are more complex, and I feel a stronger urge than ever to give him the straightest, most factual answers possible, while also being incredibly aware that at almost-eight, while maybe the almost-age of discernment and accountability and all that, I guess, it is actually still so very fresh and so very young and so vulnerable and naive. And sweet. And kids who can appear so confident and understanding on the outside can actually in fact be this whole tempest of confusion and fright on the inside. And I'm so keen on honoring his questions without over- or under-doing it.

Maybe "married" and "parents" are the two key terms here; one of them being temporary and one of them being permanent, and try as I might, describing his parents' former union as a piece of paper meant mostly to give us tax breaks and simplify health insurance benefits just isn't cutting it.

But then I found a way.

It was moving to Portland (for the company that quickly folded), that made the urgency of a real explanation seem true. Suddenly he was without one of his parents for weeks at a time. He was switching schools, leaving old friends, making new friends, and living in a new, rainy as hell climate, and I felt a layer of guilt that I knew to expect but still didn't know how to handle.

Until, one day, this spring, when we were at the Costco.

(Like all of my best stories, this one begins at shopping.)

***

Well, to start, first we gotta talk about the thing about the Costco.

The thing about the Costco, is EVERYTHING is sold in packs of two. Twos! Twos! And yes, this is the point of the thing when you go there and want the actual bulk, and yes this is a complaint that I've lodged to myself in my head at least a million times, because YES I WANT IT BIGGER, BUT NO I DO NOT WANT TWO OF THEM, THIS IS WHY I CANNOT BUY MILK HERE! DO YOU KNOW HOW BAD I WOULD LIKE TO BUY MILK HERE?

Look, we eat a lot of Nutella, but seeing two enormous jugs of it strapped together in plastic in my shopping cart makes me feel all sorts of gluttonous and American.

DDP or Diet Coke in two flats of 36, on the other hand . . .

Earlier this year, during late spring, when Huck and I were making a Diet Dr Pepper run, the Costco randomly had these buckets of blueberry and strawberry plants hanging out in the middle of the refrigerated cheese aisle.

"Huck!" I said. "Huck, are you thinking what I'm thinking?!" He was busy picking his nose and not paying attention, so I grabbed a blueberry plant and figured, hell! I'll only end up killing it, but at least it'll be pretty in the meantime!

At check out, eight million years later, the cashier asked me pleasantly if I already had a blueberry plant at home.

"No . . . why???" I asked.

Obviously I'm a single girl now, so my first thought is, Is this some kind of come-on???
So uh, you already got a blueberry plant at home to snuggle up to?

"Well, they won't fruit unless you have two of them. Do you have a second? Do you need to go and pick up another one before you leave?"

HELL NO I AM NOT GOING BACK IN THERE DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES MY CELL PHONE BATTERY HAS DIED WHILE I'VE BEEN WANDERING AROUND IN HERE?!??

AND OMG YOU GUYS THE ONE TIME A THING AT THE COSTCO DOES **NOT** COME IN A PACKAGE OF TWO!!!!!!!!

EXCUSE ME! To quote Alex Jones. (<-- is="" it="" link="" p="" super="" that="" worth="">
A few minutes of furious googling in the parking lot later, and this is what I learned:

Yes, a blueberry plant will grow just fine on a patio on its own, solo. Just one blueberry plant, even a huge blueberry plant, will flourish when well-watered and sunned. The leaves will grow bushy and tall. But you aren't going to get any fruit.

None. No fruit.

To get fruit out of a blueberry plant, you need to have two of them, situated far enough apart from each other that they can establish cross-pollination. Male and female blueberry plants. Can't be in the same pot.

Suckers need their space.

"Huck, your mom and dad are the same way," I explained to him the next day after I'd gone back for a second blueberry plant. And you are our fruit. You are our sweet, round-cheeked, priceless little blueberry (huckleberry, he points out, yes yes). You come from us, Huck, and every year we make you together.

We just can't be in the same pot and do it at the same time.

To flourish, we need to be apart.

And Huck, we want to flourish.

You are SO GOOD when we flourish.

And there you have it.
And technically this is still August.

The end.