Thanks to my innate Protestant work ethic, I felt quite guilty about planning a six-week holiday in America and leaving Peter behind to hold the fort while I was away. I felt that I needed to justify not just being away from home but being on holiday for that length of time. The way I did this was to steadfastly maintain that for the first 4 weeks I would not really be a lady of leisure. It was my intention to make myself useful, slogging away in the garden and working my fingers to the bone in the kitchen. A bit like the granny in the Fattis and Monis advert. The real holiday would only start when Peter joins us for our road trip along the south-east coast of America down to Miami.
This is, of course, not quite how it has turned out. I happen to have had the most wonderful, relaxing time. Yes, I’ve gardened in the searing heat and cooked and cleaned while the kids have been out at work. But I’ve been able to do it in my own time and I’ve really enjoyed simply being a free agent. To be honest it has come as a bit of a surprise just how therapeutic this leave of absence has been. Before I left home I was getting increasingly concerned about my mother’s well-being as well as quite impatient with her defeatist attitude. She was refusing to make any effort to exercise and as a result her legs were becoming weaker and she was becoming more and more frail and dependent. It was becoming a matter of time before decisions about her care needed to be made. What I hadn’t realised was just how much the situation had begun to weigh me down. After a few days here I started to feel a lot lighter in spirit, like a dark cloud had lifted and I could breathe more easily again. It’s funny how, without knowing it, we allow situations to get the better of us just because we can’t see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it helps to step away from the problem to get a better perspective and to realise that you’ve let things get out of kilter.
Ironically, with me gone, my mother finally admitted to Peter that she wasn’t feeling well. He arranged for the doctor to pay her a visit. After a clean bill of health, a vitamin b jab and instructions (from someone other than me) to exercise she’s up and about again and concerns about her health have been allayed. So it seems that change has been as good as a holiday for her as well.
I find that gardening also helps to clear the mind and lift the spirits and it’s been such a pleasure working in Kiera and James’ delightful woodland garden, despite the heat and wretched mosquitoes. The garden was beautifully landscaped by the previous owners and the plants that have survived years of neglect just needed tidying up. However, there were lots of gaps in the beds and my job was to help choose suitable plants from the garden centre, decide how many were needed and then to plant them – my idea of heaven. So far about 50 new shrubs and flowers have gone in, as well as a new raised veggie bed established. Having a framework within which to work has been a great help. Aesthetically pleasing landscaped gardens are not a common sight in this neighbourhood because, I think, the main priority is easy maintenance. So what you see is mostly lawns, a few shrubs “under arrest” (as Nate Berkus described furniture that had been placed up against walls) and a whole lotta mulch. Colour and interest come in the form of garden ornaments, not plants. I’ve spotted some very weird garden decorations; the ones that freak me out the most are the animal statues dressed up in real clothes!
There is, however, no need for fake animals in Kiera and James’ garden, they have plenty of real ones; birds galore, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and even a groundhog who goes by the name of Mabel. It’s a bit like being in a Beatrix Potter story. Mind you, these little critters do tend to lose their enchanting appeal when you’ve spent a fortune on plants and sweated buckets planting them only to find them half eaten or dug up the next day.
I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s not long now before Peter arrives and this part of my stay is over. Its been good for my soul and I’m feeling much revived, just in time to head south to see Alex and the rest of our fantastic American family. Look out Miami, here we come.