I’ve had that little task on my mind for the past two weeks. Just as would be expected, when a family with ten children, eight of them still living at home, move into a modest bungalow on a small farm, there are going to be memories made. Sometimes when we get together, we find ourselves reminiscing about some of the crazy scrapes we got into, the jobs we had to do, the animals that we raised, the challenges, the hard work, the fun, and generally about the times we spent together.
As I was thinking about which of my many memories I could put down on paper, I found it hard to figure out which ones I should write about. Might it be about our pet racoon, Rocky, who despite Dad’s insistence, would not be kept in his cage, and often tried to join us for lunch at the outdoor picnic table? Or perhaps it could be how Dad set up a few boyfriends by challenging them to ride a cow? I could have written about playing baseball on cold Fall evenings in the pasture, or driving our little Volkswagen Beetle that had been renovated to be able to drive around the fields. No matter how many stories came to mind I kept dismissing them. Somehow, even though they were humourous and true, they simply did not capture the essence of the time we spent on that special farm. What began to take shape in my mind were some of the bigger lessons we learned from our time there.
This time of year, early May, was a time for planting on the farm. After school, and on Saturdays, it was all hands on deck when the fields were ready for planting. Two of my younger brothers, were given the huge responsibility of running a market gardening operation. The soil on the farm was perfect for this, the sandy, well drained fields were just waiting to welcome the wide variety of seeds we tested. Although they could not yet legally drive, Daniel and David were the bosses, and the rest of us were hired by them to help out. I can still picture the evening after their very first trip to market. I don’t recall what produce we had for sale, but I do remember sitting around the kitchen table when they came home, excited to watch them count their money. No millionaires were made during those first trips, but some incredible lessons were taught to us all. This was a memory I wanted to write about; my memory about the lessons about the season of planting.
We were always a family of hard workers, but the farm instilled in me the understanding of the seasons. Not only the seasons of the crops, but the seasons of life. On the farm we learned that if we wanted to grow something, we needed to plant seeds and tend them. We needed to be patient and nurture them. We needed to do our part, but we also needed to count on Mother Nature too. We knew we would not see results right away.
Sometimes it took days to see new shoots, weeks to see blossoms, months to yield fruit, and even years to reap the rewards of certain fruits and vegetables. We learned that sometimes, despite our best efforts and care, things beyond our control would interrupt our plans for a fruitful harvest. All of this has been a wonderful lesson for so many different parts of my life. This recipe of planting, and nurturing and patience has been true for my relationships, for learning new skills, for progressing in my careers, for raising children, and for aging.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. All mothers understand this concept of planting and patience. When our children are small, we begin to plant. We plant seeds of love. Seeds of security. We plant seeds of good citizenship. And of family, kindness, perseverance, understanding, sharing, adventure, cooperation, creativity, and so much more. During those little years, we wonder if any of our seeds are beginning to grow. At times we wonder if we even remembered to water them.
What I’ve observed about Mothers is this. They understand they have made a commitment to patiently be present for not only the planting, but for all parts of the growing and harvest. They know there will be days when they see growth. There will be days when the beauty of the blossoms will overwhelm them. There will be times when the harvest comes, when the children are ready to head off to market themselves. And there will be storms, always unexpected, always worrisome, and sometimes even terrifying. They also understand they cannot do this important job alone. They need to count on others to help. Sometimes the help comes in the form of extra hands, sometimes it shows up as a wonderful teacher, sometimes it is in the smallest comment of encouragement.
Sunday, may we remember, honour, appreciate, and whenever possible, spend a few minutes with our mothers, both biological and those who came to our lives to share their mothering with us, the women who understood the significance of the seasons, and who stood and stand with us through the planting, the growing, the harvest and the sitting around the table to count our blessings.
I’m very grateful to the little farm in Strabane for this wisdom.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to nurture a garden.