I used to think to myself, “I’ll never be like my Dad when I grow up.”
I didn’t like to do yard work, feed chickens or pick vegetables from a garden. I only wanted to spend my days exploring the neighborhood, climbing trees and collecting rocks. Yard work seemed to be a form of punishment for us — or so we thought.
I’ve since learned that growing up and becoming an adult has an odd way of changing the priorities in your life.
When I was a child, my three brothers and I played outside from sunup until sundown. When Dad came home from working all week in Louisiana, we already knew he would spend the weekend doing yard work.
One of my worst childhood memories was removing all the rocks from the dirt in the vegetable garden. What a horrifying experience.
Don’t get me wrong, my dad loved to be outside just as much as we did. The only difference was that we were there to play while he was there to preserve the splendor of his landscape. It always seemed like he was doing the same things over and over — cut the grass, weed eat, water the garden, plant vegetables, pull weeds, remove rocks. Where was the excitement in all of this?
Fast forward 35 years where my bias toward yard work has drastically changed. I now find myself rushing home from work to spend time in my yard before dark. I rake leaves and remove rocks. I stress over patches of dying grass. I’ve even purchased gardening books and have attended my first gardening show. I have undeniably turned into my dad.
My dad visited my house a few weeks ago and brought me some daffodils and an agave century plant.
I look forward to his visits because I know he’ll bring me plants for my yard. My favorites are the six juniper trees planted in front of my home.
These are exceptionally special because my dad named me after the song “Jennifer Juniper” by Donovan. He gifted me these sea green coniferous beauties soon after my house was built 15 years ago. Ninety-nine percent of the foliage in my yard was a gift from my dad.
I just spent the weekend at my dad’s house working in his yard alongside him. We took down an old swimming pool and used the remaining hole to construct a new fire pit. We adorned the fire pit with large rocks my dad has collected over the years and planted grass around the outer edges.
This is what life is all about.
The years spent detesting yard work was only preparing me for the passion and zeal I have for it as an adult.
Thank you, dad, for being an inspiration to me by showing me how to love and care for nature as much as you always have.
— Bush Mattingly lives in Hazlehurst, Mississippi
Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to the Human Condition at email@example.com or The Advocate, EatPlayLive, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810. There is no payment, and stories will be edited. Authors should include their city of residence.