Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary . . .

Emily Glicksman // Tales From the Trenches


October 12  

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells

And pretty maids all in a row.

I am a reluctant gardener. I have never wanted a garden, nor have I planted a garden. And yet, I am mostly responsible for the care of a garden.

Like Mary, I feel pretty contrary about it.  

It might not seem like a big deal—unless you consider the amount of care necessary to keep plants alive in September, in Texas. 

Sometimes when I am watering, there is a pleasant breeze and time to reflect on life. But there are also mosquitos and leaky hoses and spider mites.

This summer, I watered for a week without realizing that the tomato plants were infested with spider mites. The mites required research and time-consuming treatment. In September. In Texas. And when that well-researched treatment didn’t work, more treatment was required. 

At some point, I had to give those tomato plants over to God. I had done all I could do to get rid of the mites, and I was all worn out. 

Watering the garden has often led me to contemplate mothering and gardening. In both, you want to make fertile ground. You need to feed and water your plants and children. You watch them grow. Sometimes pests attack, and you try and figure out how to get rid of the pests. In the case of children, the pests are like vices, I suppose. You don’t always notice them until they are full blown and difficult to treat. And your first attempts are often failures—like the spider mites. 

I think there is another parallel, too, with parenting. All moms are different, but I am very results oriented. I see a problem and want to make a plan to fix the problem. But mothering just isn’t that clear cut. Sometimes you don’t see the positive changes over the span of days or even weeks, and then, all of a sudden, you realize there has been progress. And that progress isn’t the result of our mad micromanaging skills (at least it isn’t usually for me!). Usually, the progress is the result of those steady efforts of making fertile ground, watering and feeding, constant prayer, addressing the problem, and then letting go and letting God. 

Our children are not a product we produce. Our homes are not factories to turn out well-formed adults. Mothering is a process of seeing the needs of our children and doing our best to fill those needs. At some point, like with the tomato plants, you just have to give the children over to God and pray.  

Mary, Mary, now a bit less contrary, how does your garden grow? 

With God’s grace and the communion of saints 

And guardian angels all in a row.

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