Of friendship, waiting, and gardens

We sat on the hardwood floor of my 1920’s bungalow. We folded laundry while my toddler ran to and fro. My baby boy, just learning to pull himself up on furniture, squealed with delight at his new skill. She was waiting on the birth of her first child. We talked about childbirth. About how she hoped it would happen naturally, the way mine had. About how each day felt so long when the unknowns loomed large. Nine months. Overdue. Still waiting.

A year later I found myself waiting. After enduring a hard pregnancy, I was longing for the end. Longing for my baby girl in my arms. I sat in her warm living room after a routine check-up. I remember tearing up with exhaustion over the waiting. She patiently cleaned up the food her baby had tossed out of his high chair. She fed my boys. I looked out of the window, staring at the apartment building immediately next door. The pressures of life and all the pain felt interminable.

That winter was a hard one. We ventured out into the inclement weather, even by Chicago’s standards, and spent the day at an aquarium. We basked in the warmth of the amazon room. We marveled at glowing jellyfish. We pushed strollers and struggled little arms into puffy jackets. The day passed quickly, amidst endless days of snow and negative degrees. My heart was happy and my arms were full. She was sad, enveloped in darkness. We talked that day. Really talked. We prayed. We waited.

We planted a garden together in my backyard. The extra garden plot was ideal for her tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and one rogue potato from last year’s harvest. We shared vegetables. We talked about the ethics of tomatoes. I taught her how to can and we made salsa from the last green tomatoes, once the seasons had changed.

She moved while I waited for my house to sell. For 18 months, I waited for it to sell. For 18 months, she lived in another country and lived a different life. We each became victims of very different assailants. For six months, we both began to drown in our pain. PTSD for her. Divorce for me. We unexpectedly found ourselves together again, together in this darkness. I brought her groceries when she could barely move. She prayed for me and wrote me letters when I didn’t want to live. We sat on a park bench in the green of summer, watching our children play. Therapy? Medication? Vitamins? Was there any hope for us?

We cried many tears on the grey couch in my living room. We still folded laundry. She watched my kids so I could shower. We made lunches together and greedily scooped up our salads, squeezed together on the piano bench at the end of the table. Our very full table, full of children and their laughter. Our pain so foreign to them. They were no longer alarmed at our tears. The tears were more common than our smiles.

Another winter passed, more waiting for healing. Waiting for light. Some days we still cried, but we smiled too. We laughed. I would watch her lean back onto my orange pillows and stretch her legs across the cushions. We began to feel whole. But what’s next? Where do we go from here? Could she return to her new home? Could I move forward in a new relationship? When? How?

In May I asked for her help in my garden again. We ripped up weeds and plowed the claylike soil. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, strawberries, potatoes, jalapenos, and herbs. She told me about the summer she worked in a nursery. How the best part of her day was watering the thirsty plants each morning. I thought about that every time I watered that garden. After weeks of taking care of the plants the produce was abundant. She returned to her new country. I brought home a new husband. As a new family, we ate many meals comprised of the fruits of my labors, and of the labor of love from my dear friend.

The season has passed and the plants have wilted. I spent an afternoon in the hot sun tilling the soil and carefully planting new seeds. Seeds for a fall harvest. Planting seeds seems like utter foolishness. Hoping that these small bits can turn into something flourishing and worthwhile. I spend my mornings watering these invisible seeds, thinking of her and how we made it. How we cried, laughed, despaired, hoped, gardened, and cooked together for nearly six years. How the seasons have come and gone, how waiting has turned into doing. How there’s always life after death. And how we have hope because of Jesus for our days that remain.