Love Letters

Growing flowers in the desert

Putting Down Roots 28 February, 2007

Filed under: Desert life,gardening — Brighid Fraser @ 9:34 am

I’ve lived in this town for almost seven years and I’ve been pretending it isn’t permanent. I’ve been living in this rocky desert, all the while dreaming of returning to the mountains – either the mountains of my birth or the mountains of my heart. But it doesn’t seem as though my husband will ever want to leave this place – his entire family is within a half-hour’s drive, and unlike me, he’s very close to his family. My kids are in school here and I know what it’s like to be wrenched away just as you make friends and how hard it is to make friends in a new place.

So, it appears that I’m now a desert dweller – against my will. I suppose that I could live in worse places – the Gobi springs to mind. I mean, it’s not like this place is uncivilised and completely lacking the essentials – namely a locally-owned coffee shop, bookstore and a killer sandwich joint. It’s just that … well, it’s not the Highlands or the Rockies of Colorado. It’s unflinchingly sunny here nearly every damned day. And the summers are oppressively hot. And there are two seasons – the hot season and the hot and wet season. I can’t remember the last time I watched a tree go through its entire life-cycle. I miss the crisp coolness of fall air; the tang of ozone when it snows; the soft spring rain; and summer days that aren’t like stepping into an oven set on broil.

There are good things about this desert – swimming outside on Christmas Day, for example. Authentic Mexican food. Not having to dig out from under two feet of snow. The opportunity to learn a whole new way of gardening. The history and the gorgeous architecture. The close proximity of awesome hiking trails. The kids’ school. My school. My husband’s job.

It’s time for me to embrace the desert and put down some roots here. It’ll be tough, though. Underneath the top soil is a layer of caliche, that impermeable layer of calcium carbonate cemented together with gravel, sand, clay, and silt. Roots can’t go deep enough to get the proper amount of nutrients, water, or space and so the plants don’t grow. But as any expert desert gardener knows, you can remove the caliche and amend the soil and plants will grow big and strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what I need to do – amend the soil.

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The Favourite Child 26 February, 2007

Filed under: Cheap Therapy,Motherhood — Brighid Fraser @ 3:58 pm

Whenever a mother says to me that she doesn’t have a favourite child, I always wince and am flooded with feelings of guilt. I have two children – a daughter and a son – and my son is far and away my favourite. I suppose it’s because he’s my baby, the youngest and he wasn’t an “accident”. My daughter, on the other hand, was an “accident” – the child that almost wasn’t mine.

When I first found out I was pregnant with her, in the early months of 1999, I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could care for a child. I was single – not even in a relationship. I was in school and not employed. I smoked. I drank like a fish. I loved partying. So, I began the adoption process. I met with the family who would raise my daughter and began the mental and emotional process of giving up my baby.

But then she was born and I bonded with her. I held her and fed her and looked into her little face and I fell in love with her. I decided that I wanted to raise her myself. No, more than wanted – had to. I finished school, got a full-time job and went about the mental and emotional process of being a single, working mother.

When my daughter was almost a year old, I met the man who would soon become my husband. We got married when she was two, and her brother was born when she was almost four. Suddenly, my daughter was last on my list of priorities…and I feel like she’s stayed there ever since.

I think my son is my favourite because I’ve had time to bond with him properly. There was never a point when I had to gear up for losing him. Because of my husband’s job, we could afford for me to stay home with him for his first year of life and even now that he’s four, during the day, it’s me and him doing errands together, going to the zoo and museums together.

It could also be because my son is such an easy kid. He’s sweet, funny, helpful, and loving – basically my husband in Underoos and Garanimals. My daughter is antagonistic, argumentative, controlling and smart as a whip. In short, she’s my doppelganger. And that may be the most telling reason why my son is my favourite.

My New Year’s Resolution this year is to spend more time alone with my daughter. I try to spend an entire day with her once a week doing things she likes. We’ve been to the zoo, to a few local museums and to the movies together. I’m getting reacquainted with her and seeing that she, too, can be a sweet, loving, funny kid. But (and there’s always a but) she can be so horrendously mean to her little brother and it just sets me off again. I know I’m harder on her than I am on her brother and I try to justify it by saying she’s older and should know better. When it all boils down to the smallest parts, I know there’s no excuse for how I treat her. I’m hoping that by acknowledging this problem, I can fix it before it’s too late.