All sports practices are cancelled and so are our children’s weekly Saturday swim lessons. Birthday parties are no longer opportunities for our kids to socialize with others. In fact, the social distancing mandate has called for new forms of socialization altogether. We had a whole weekend as a family unit and what were we to do with it? My husband and I had plans, and I soon found out, so did our kids.
Several weeks ago, my dad and I spent a whole day at a plant nursery auction. The company had been leasing the land that it had utilize for decades, and the owners opted to sell it for a retirement community to move in. That meant all of the plants — from the littlest potted blueberry bush to the largest fruit tree planted deep in the soil — had to go. The owner of the nursery and landscaping company opted to coordinate an auction, so to the auction we went.
My husband and I had just built a new home and when we moved in, we were more concerned with the house being finished than the landscaping being completed. We figured we’d get to it someday. But after a few months in and with spring on the horizon, we knew it was time to focus on our curb appeal. The auction was our opportunity, and after 12 hours of standing in the cold bidding on plants of all sizes, shapes and types, we left with a load of beauties.
The problem wasn’t if we had enough plants to work with; instead, it was when we would find the time to welcome them into our home’s soil. We had so much to do … so many commitments that took us away from our farm and didn’t give us the chance to plant any beyond our fruit trees. We were finding that we had just 30 minutes in the evenings to get a few bushes planted before the sun would set and take away our daylight. So, for weeks, the plants sat on the side of our driveway, yearning for soil to help them grow.
This past weekend, the first with all things in our lives cancelled, we decided it was time to landscape. The rain had held off some, but the cold temperatures hadn’t. We didn’t care. Nothing would hold us back from our mission. Armed with scarves, gloves and hats to cover our ears, Cory and I dug holes and planted to our hearts content.
While we were focused on the landscaping, our kids were into their own adventures on the farm. At first, they found the mud piles. They didn’t have to tell me that they found them for their pants covered in mud told their secrets. They walked like their feet were covered in cement — except they were weighted down by mud — to tell us of their next adventure.
They had found a broken-down cabinet that we relocated from our previous home awaiting its destiny. I remember that cabinet all too well as it gave me the chills when we were packing it up. It was originally filled with all things outdoor — from garden shoes to insect repellants … wood stains and screw drivers. It was the last item we packed up for our move, and instead of putting everything in boxes (we were exhausted and fed up with packing by that time), we decided to just move the unit and keep everything within it to unpack when we landed at our final destination … our new home.
The moment we moved the unit, I saw a visitor that had decided to make its resting place our garage floor. Under the small, white storage unit was a dead mouse. Who knew how long it had been there? I jumped several feet in the air and refused to reenter the garage until someone got rid of it! Yes, I remember that unit very, VERY well!
Now, it awaits its final resting place, in our next fire pit. The unit barely made it to our new home in one piece. Once we opened it to empty its contents, the walls started caving in, so we knew it had done its job; it had completed its mission. Laying by our driveway is the walls of the unit, and when we pull together our next bonfire, we plan to burn its remains with it.
My kids had other plans, though. While Cory and I landscaped, we heard their giggles and imaginations running rampant. It was refreshing, especially if that meant that they were getting along (a feat we had been striving for!). My oldest, Eli, came begging for our help and it was then that we took a moment to soak in what they had been working so hard on.
A fort. A castle. A clubhouse and a hideout. They had taken the broken boards awaiting their imminent doom and built something creative with it. Together, they built something special that gave the three of them a place to laugh in and create in. For hours they played with what Cory and I had set out for trash. While we had seen no more use for the storage unit’s walls, our kids saw its ongoing potential.
Why is it that the older we grow, the less imaginative we become? I mean, when my kids see a box, they see opportunity! When I see a box, I see annoyance. When they see a mud pile they can’t wait to climb it. When I see a mud pile, I can’t wait to demolish it. When they see a ratty, broken-down storage unit, they see a fort. When I see it, I see an eyesore.
Our children look up to us to help them learn, but what if we took a moment to look up to them? What would we learn from our little ones? This weekend I learned the value of creativity and adventure … the joys found in the unknowns and the opportunities.
I didn’t break down the newly created fort quite yet. It may look like a pile of trash when someone drives up to our home, but to my kids, it has great value. And to me, it’s a reminder that one person’s trash can always be another person’s treasure.