Her Wishes, His Command

THE REAL DIRT

February 13, 1994|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Usually on Valentine's Day, I do what most men do. I grit my teeth, pry open my wallet and shell out big bucks for a dozen roses -- flowers I could pick for free this summer.

This year, however, I have other plans. Let others flock to the florist. I'm giving my wife something different tomorrow.

Forget flowers, she's getting a gift that won't wilt next week. A gift she can savor all summer.

She's getting a dozen wishes, not roses. Wishes for garden chores that I'll complete without complaint. Promise.

Meg loves the idea. In fact, she has already started her wish list.

Window boxes are right at the top. Meg wants window boxes so she won't have to bend over to weed or water the flowers. And, for some reason, she wants me to build them myself.

"That way I'll know they're really from you," she says.

Right. Everything I build of wood winds up looking like a beaver dam. But apparently she doesn't care.

"Try not to demolish the house," she says. "Or your thumbs."

Meg also wants me to clean the garden shed, which is looking a bit ragged. She keeps tripping over tomato cages and falling into the wheelbarrow. Last week, she opened the shed and was attacked by a 5-pound bag of potting soil that fell on her head.

"Just once I'd like to step inside without feeling like Indiana Jones entering the Temple of Doom," she says.

Her next wish: to be able to water her flower beds without having to untangle the garden hose. I usually drag the hose through mud (or doggy piles) and leave it in knots that would stop Houdini.

"And stop being so negative whenever I ask your gardening opinion," says Meg.

Pardon?

"Every time I suggest planting something in the yard, you say it will die. You sound like Eeyore. Stop pooh-poohing my plans. At least let me try."

OK, I'll clam up. This year, anyway.

What else would my wife like for Valentine's Day? A neat and tidy yard. Dozens of fallen branches litter the lawn, impeding one's route to the clothesline.

The tree debris isn't ours. It's a gift from Katydid the dog, who returns with a keepsake of each walk we take in the woods. Usually she brings back a log 6 inches thick, or a tree limb 8 feet long. Katydid insists on dragging these monstrous mementos home in her jaws, trotting proudly down the road amid rubbernecking motorists.

Once there, she simply drops the wood and wags her tail, leaving me to dispose of it. Alas, I'm far behind in cleaning up. The lawn looks like a lumberyard, says Meg.

And while I'm at it, she wants me to:

-- Plant a pumpkin patch this year. Never mind that pumpkin vines sprawl all over the garden. My wife wants to carve her own jack-o'-lantern instead of buying one with a price tattooed on its forehead.

-- Wipe the dirt off the vegetables' feet before they enter the house.

-- Find a lawn mower that a woman can start without dialing 911.

-- Return all tools to their rightful spots instead of leaving them half-buried in the garden. She's tired of clawing up soil to exhume the garden trowel.

-- Complete the flagstone walk I began during the Reagan administration. The walk goes halfway to the street and ends abruptly. Meg calls it "The Path to Nowhere."

She gave one of her Valentine's wishes to our daughter Beth, who has plans of her own. Beth wants a treehouse built in the big Norway maple beside the garden, so she can drop water balloons on my head while I'm working.

My wife plans to watch these shenanigans from the safety of the new gazebo that I'm to construct in the back yard.

I may have trouble granting that wish. A gazebo? I'm good with a shovel, not hammer and nails. I'm worried the treehouse may be over my head.

Sheesh. Tough holiday, this Valentine's Day. I could be "celebrating" all summer long.

On second thought, a bouquet of flowers looks pretty darn good.

Maybe it is best to stop and smell the roses, even if they were raised somewhere else.

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