It’s been a difficult summer. Therefore, I’ve decided to write only one story to try and sum up everything. It has nothing to do with the house or the renovation but about my relationship with my daughter vis a vis my attempt to grow garlic.
Around the time the first buds of garlic started to appear in the Red House garden, my daughter decided in her final semester of high school that although she had already been accepted to a very expensive college, she thought (incorrectly) that she could blow off going to class, not hand in work that was missing, and last but not least, decide she wasn’t going to take any more tests! (The latter she tried to rationalize with the following logic: why take a test that you know you are going to fail anyway?)
While I would have preferred to spend my days thinking about the Red House rather than to test or not to test, suddenly during the months of May and June, my cell phone number became the #1 speed-dial option on my daughter’s guidance counselor’s phone. He, in turn, gave me a serious reality check that I had a daughter who was in real fear of not graduating from high school.
To say that I was embarrassed about this turn of events (me, the high school honors student and college graduate), was putting it mildly. In fact I was horrified; I tried to pass off her sudden ennui as a phase of “senioritis,” but then realized it was much more than that. For the first time in her 18 years, her father and I started worrying about her grades. This was particularly uncharted territory for us since we both believed that grades didn’t matter much as long as you learned something.
By the middle of May, we also realized she wasn’t going to get enough funding to attend the expensive college in question. Her father and I had also made the decision earlier in the year that we were not going to pay for an education that was so costly, especially when the promise of a job at the end of four years was not a given. This proved to be not as heart-wrenching as it may sound since her grades spiraled downward and she actually had shown little interest in a field that was supposed to be her major. I decided she had better think about a back-up school or she may end up with no place to go. So she put in a few late applications to a couple of schools in the city, we sent in another application fee, and waited to hear back.
I, in the meantime, went up to the Red House to deal with my ever growing crop of garlic. I visited a local farmer’s market one Saturday and eyed a bag of scapes that someone was selling.
Since I remembered seeing plenty of scapes growing in my garden but failed to cut them, I realized I had already made my first garlic mistake. Theory is, you need to cut the scapes when they appear so all the energy gets diverted back to the garlic bulbs still in the ground.
I began to wonder somehow if the mistake I made with the garlic was reflective of the mess I was facing back home. Should I have been able to change something in her life to divert her energies back to her studies? While that was probably me channeling some existentialist theories, ultimately she, not I, was responsible for her (in my opinion) bad choices.
So while I thought the scapes that I failed to cut earlier in the summer looked lovely, ultimately they wouldn’t amount to what they could be. I have to admit, this correlation between the two (the stunted garlic, the stunted daughter) was haunting me.
Both of us forged ahead. She did graduate from high school as my previous story revealed but somehow failed math. While she didn’t “technically” need math to graduate from high school what she failed to realize is that she needed math to get into college. Suddenly one of the back-up colleges that she applied to, sending her a conditional admittance letter, rescinded their decision when she went to take a math placement test and failed it.
I meanwhile, working off of a recipe the farmer selling the bag of scapes had given me, put my $2 worth of green shoots in a food processor and attempted to make pesto.
I suppose she and I both felt at that point that we had been through the grinder. I didn’t particularly like the scape pesto I ended up with and she didn’t like the idea she couldn’t get the money to go to her first choice school. Like the scape pesto I made, everything was wrong; in my case it revolved around the texture of the dish, plus it was just too green. Somehow though I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it out; it had to be eaten even if I could only manage a little bit at a time.
My dislike for this new-fangled pesto mirrored the increasing distastefulness of our family life. We moved to Plan C which we realized was the only option left after my daughter didn’t get into any of the city colleges. She and I begrudgingly filled out an application to our local community college and I managed to find a kind soul who had summer duty in her high school guidance office who was able to pull all the paperwork together that we needed, again.
I decided this painful ordeal was similar to me trying to harvest my first head of garlic. Now, I’m the last person to believe everything I read online, but I did come across an entry from someone who claimed garlic can easily be dug up with a little bit of elbow grease and a fork. Here’s what happened when I tried to follow his advice; my garlic broke in half and the fork was dented, too.
The nearly-broken-fork and barely intact piece of garlic probably should have given me an idea of what else the summer had in store for us. Apparently, having a daughter who could barely get through high school wasn’t enough, I needed to have said daughter’s on-again, off-again boyfriend be behind the wheel of her car one afternoon and get into a car accident.
Now while no one was hurt and the boyfriend technically wasn’t at fault (other than not being quick enough to get out of the way of a driver who wasn’t paying attention to avoid the collision), what we didn’t realize was that the boyfriend was driving the car with a suspended license! This coupled with the fact that the car sustained over $11,000 in damages resulted in our insurance company immediately cancelling our policy after writing a really big check to the auto body repair shop.
I spent the next few days looking at the garlic growing in the garden and fielding phone calls (no pun intended) from insurance agents who said they were unhappy to inform me that we were suddenly placed in a high risk category because of this mishap and that we could possibly be looking at premiums as high as $12,000 per year for car insurance.
Thoughts of every project I wanted to do on the Red House in the next two years started evaporating, right before my eyes. And while the garlic growing actually looked ok, attractive even, I knew it was just not right.
I thought about all the healing properties garlic was supposed to have and wondered how I was possibly going to dig it all up by Labor Day weekend. It would be naive of me to think if I perhaps ate enough of it everything both inside me and around me would get better. I suddenly remembered breastfeeding both of my kids when they were infants and trying to avoid eating foods (like garlic) that might wreak havoc on tiny babies tummy’s. I had to think, perhaps if I had eaten a clove or two, then nursed, perhaps I could have increased her stamina to not just coast along and barely make it, but to finish proudly.
I picked one final clove before I left the Red House and went back to deal with getting new insurance, a car repaired, and the results of yet another placement test at the local college. It was a nearly perfect bulb. Let’s hope that’s how she turns out, too.