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Middle Ground

by Barb Hampton


The root system varies from one plant to the next. Some have taproots, reaching deep underground. Others have spreading fibrous masses consisting of many rootlets. Roots are often deeper and broader than the above ground height and spread of the plant.

I know this because I live with a gardener. We walk together nearly every day, and he explains the names and varieties of plants. Though I often do not understand what he says, I walk by his side, listening as he describes this part of his world. "Garden with me?", he often asks. "I garden in my journals", I tell him. Life plants experiences and I sow words. My journals are like gardens; the insights that bloom there help me understand who I am.

Today I stand on the middle ground, surrounded by generations. His grandmothers, Ione Busch and Sarah Hampton, both enriched my life. They are gone now. My grandmothers, Helen Evans and Dorothy Keehler are still here. They are walking into the sunset of their years, both 85, both grasping what is left of their independence, and yet the essence of who they have always been surrounds them. I hear it in their words, I feel it in the scrawled signatures on the bottom of cards and letters.

I am now the grandmother of two. Kaylin Renee and Jaeden David have entered my life. As they bloom, my roots expand. Each day with them teaches me something new. I reach for my dreams to teach them to reach for their own. I walk toward the Path Ione and Sarah have finished, the Path Helen and Dorothy walk before me, the Path some day Kaylin and Jaeden will follow.

(root n.) The part of the plant that typically extends into the soil.

She's running across the yard at top speed for a two year old with a puppy by her side. The trampling herd hits the iris patch in the front yard. The bright green fans are nearly shoulder height. I scoop her up with one hand, the puppy with the other, and look to the meticulous gardener at my side.

 "What will I do when there are three?" I exclaim.

"I'd think" he says "you need to get one of them under voice command. Personally, I'd go for the dog," and he laughs his Grandfather Laugh, eyes sparkling, heart open.

I remember the warm Spring afternoon his Grandma Ione turned up to view his new garden. She demanded we bring the wheelbarrow to her house that same day. We could do nothing but comply, dutifully following her through her yard.

"Dig here" she said. "Mom planted something here that used to bloom. You'll find the bulbs." or "Dig here. Grandpa planted these but they never bloomed." We followed her, from one place to another and when we got home we planted her perennial treasures.

Today Kaylin runs through those flowers and some from his Grandma Sarah's yard. We can smell the blooms from my Nanny Dorothy's home, and as we did that hot August day after Grandma Ione's funeral, we watch a hummingbird land on the tall white Dutch that never bloomed for his Grandpa, but bloomed miraculously for us.

(root n.)...absorbs water and minerals needed by the plant for its growth and other functions.

She showed me where Mommy kept the shoes. She found her jacket. Then she smiled at me. It was a simple request. Nothing forbidden, like cookies, or throwing toys, or even taking off her socks. She just wanted to go outside.

She paused after we stepped through the door. She's looking at the grass, I thought, taking in the wonders of nature that she's discovering, looking at the little white clover flowers. She reached for my hand, led me down the two concrete steps to the pebbled patio Daddy and Grandpa had built, and I imagined the two of us blowing the fluffy tops off the snowball dandelions. Then she started across the yard.

 "Where are you going?" I asked. She didn't even turn around. She simply said,

 "Digging dirt".

Brief moments later, she laid down her little pink shovel.

 "I miss Annie" she said, looking around the yard.

Don't talk about the dog, I had been instructed. She's almost stopped asking for her. It just wasn't working out. She kept hurting Kaylin, knocking her down, we couldn't control her. It's been really hard. Just don't bring it up.

 "Ernie?" I hedged. "Like Bert and Ernie?"

 "No" she said, glaring at me. "Annie. I loved Annie."

So we talked about missing and loving and going away. And when she was finished she said, "All done digging. Let's swing!"

root n. That part of the plant that typically extends into the soil, absorbs water and minerals needed by the plant for its growth and other functions and anchors the plant to the ground.

It's one of my favorite pictures. Kaylin and I are sitting on a rock in our front yard in the early Spring. She's about ten months old. She's wearing her little white hat with the ruffled edges and she's holding a daffodil. On my home page it is displayed with these words:

KAYLIN SEES

Yellow petal daffodils
Birdies on the windowsill
Bugs that fly and grass that grows
Feathers brush against your nose
Every day a new surprise
Open wide your tiny eyes
Moments brief as grains of sand
Being with you
Holding hands

Those words are one of only three pieces I wrote for months at the beginning of 1997. The doctors were telling me it didn't look good, that the tests were showing a lung condition that would give me three, maybe five, years. Today I know the doctors were wrong. The condition turned out to be chronic instead of fatal. But that day I was learning the value of the moment. What I learned to value between the beginning and the end of that experience are in the pages I write today.

I am the granddaughter to the grandmother
I am the grandmother to the granddaughter
I am the flower
I am the stem
I am the root

 "So how is it to turn 44?"

"Pretty scary since I think I can remember when you were 44."

"Very funny", said Aunt Betty "You always were the cute one. She wanted me to call. She's making her way to the phone now."

"How's she doing?"

"Pretty good for 85. Here she is."

After the usual Happy Birthday and Thank You, Helen and I talked about the weather, health and life in general. Her perspective adds to mine. She went through her memories of me and then talked about my son, Shawn. Finally she said "So tell me about the babies" and I detailed wonderful moments, bragging about my grandbabies.

"I hate to say it, Nanny, because it sounds like bragging, but I think they are perfect."

"Grandbabies always are, Bobby Jean. I know mine are."

The light of her laughter warms the distance between us. Our roots are strengthened. The blooms in our lives reach for the sky.


Barb Hampton is a lady who wears many hats. In fact, she has so many hats that she carries a hat rack with her at all times. She describes herself as: Wife and Companion, Assistant Trust Officer, Empress, Grandmother, Mother, Friend, Minister, and Writer, although not necessarily in that order. "My goal is to be more than a figment of my imagination."

E-mail Barbara at:
iriswrit@midwest.net


Other Columns Articles

[ Sisters for Eternity ] [ The Other Kind of Networking: Remembering Aunt Pearl ]
[ Getting Down to Earth ] [ Goddess In My Garden ] [ Middle Ground ]
[ Getting Down to Earth About Buying a New Computer ]
[ Getting Back to Basics: Herbal Remedies for Whatever Ails You ]

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