I remember growing my first tomato. We lived in Washington, and in a flower bed next to the back door my sad little plant suddenly shot up and produced one---and only one---perfect, bright red tomato. I called my dad and mom, excited about my bounty. "And now," my dad said, "you know why Daddy has been so excited all these years about farming."
For me, it's more about the success than the actual food. I get a rush when the first shoot comes out of the ground, and then the first bloom, and then the first sign of a real tomato. Did I mention I don't even really like uncooked tomatoes?
I love the little bit of gardening I'm doing here. I've become a gatherer of seeds and pods and so far have grown hibiscus and corals trees from them. I've gotten ornamental and real pineapples and aloe starts, and recently, some seeds for a peach double hibiscus. Some of you are glazing over at the description of gardening, but to me, it's exciting stuff; not only that, but our screened in back porch is the perfect place to start plants that are sheltered from too much sun (and hungry banana rats).
Not only is it a great place for a plant nursery of sorts, but the porch is the perfect place to get bread dough to rise. Never mind that my bread making attempts have been abysmal at best thus far; I'm not giving up. I will conquer the homemade bread loaf! We will probably be here for 2 more years, so I have time to get it right before we leave. Either that, or we will finally get a regular shipment of bread again (meaning anything other than whole wheat hotdog buns).
And that tree I dug up out of a random stranger's yard when we first arrived? I love it---it's our own Truffula Tree (I told you Seuss has infiltrated my brain) and going strong.
Here are some signs that the kids are, perhaps, finally settling down and adjusting to this place better than expected:
1. They automatically spray down with bug spray before going to the movies, the playground, or just out in the yard to kick the soccer ball, and they now remind me to put on sunscreen.
2. They know schoolmates and neighbors by their house number---even if they don't always know or remember their names.
3. Observed from a distance, while walking to the playground to call the kids in at dusk: the retreat music played over the base-wide PA system and our kids, who were the only two at the playground, jumped off their swings, stood at attention, and put their hands over their hearts.
4. Tuesday afternoons they ask if we can see what new stuff has come in at the NEX from the barge.
5. Kids talk, and now most the neighborhood kids know about Rodney and ask to see him. And our kids are more than happy to oblige.
6. Kid #1 is wearing a wrist watch. When was the last time you saw a teenager wear a watch? And it is analog. With no cell phone service here, you have to actually use a watch if you want to know the time.
They also have learned the sad lesson that friends come and go constantly when you live on a military base. Neither has moved around enough to know this (and the oldest has very few memories of living near a military community). My husband moved something like 14 times before he graduated high school. My oldest can count on 2 fingers, and his younger brother, 1 the number of places they have lived before we moved here.
The kids have a tremendous amount of freedom here. There are multiple trade-offs to living in this place, but you can't put a monetary value on knowing your neighbors and being able to let your grade school-aged kid go to a park by himself. The oldest can navigate this place with great accuracy using the memorized bus schedule.
Why is it that our moms weren't afraid to let us be away from home from sun-up to sun-down, riding our bikes all over town (sometimes without shoes, always without helmets), no way to get in touch with us other than tracking us down through neighbors, but our generation is terrified of letting go and letting our kids live like we did? Our kids, who have bike helmets and cells phones (some that are being tracked by parents) are in turn afraid to venture more than a few blocks from the house.
I don't buy the argument that the world has suddenly become a big, bad place that is too dangerous for children. I think somehow we'll fallen victim to a collective amnesia that the world was Mayberry-safe when we were little and we buy the media hype that kidnappers and molesters are around every corner, waiting to pounce on our precious children. I don't think it's any better or worse than when we were kids; one difference is we tend to judge those parents who let their kids live as we did in the 70s and 80s. It's different here; people don't neglect their kids, but it's okay to let your seven year old venture across the neighborhood alone, call you when he gets where he needs to be, and venture home alone when it starts to get dark. It took a while to not panic---the kids don't have cell phones! What if something happens??---to realize that the worse thing that can happen is I shelter them and make them prisoners in their own home.
And speaking of moms and dads and feral children---guess which grown up feral child gets to see her parents this very weekend? Things have worked out and the countdown is on! I'm telling the biggest iguanas and banana rats that it's showtime, come this weekend. We all have a big dose of island fever (as in, I can't wait to get away from this island, even for a few days) and Spring Break and a visit from the grandparents can't come soon enough!