GROUNDHOGS AND WATER ICE

Each Saturday evening after my 11-year-old son’s out-of-town violin lesson, the two of us stop at a water ice shop on the way home and get treats to go.

The first time we did this was in May. As we neared home, our cups were still full. My son was slowly savoring every spoonful of his top layer of Birthday Cake flavored ice, leaving a layer of red Swedish Fish flavor waiting in the bottom half of his cup. I couldn’t eat my lemon flavored ice in the car because I was driving.

But we couldn’t go straight home because, as my son pointed out, we didn’t get anything for his older brother who was at the house working on a school project.

“Where can we go?” I asked. “We don’t want to hurt your brother’s feelings.”

“Let’s go to our community garden,” my son said.

So instead of turning left at the next light, we turned right and parked next to our garden to eat our water ice.

Our garden wasn’t fully planted then. In between spoonsful of my lemon dessert, I compared our plants to those in other people’s gardens. My son and I debated whether watering the plants was necessary. And we watched a groundhog hovering around a nearby shed.

“He’s so cute!” my son said.

“I hope he’s lazy,” I said. “He has to eat through three gardens to get to ours.”

All of a sudden, a baby ground hog joined the furry animal. Then another. Then another two.

“It’s a family!” my son said.

“They’re definitely going to want food from our garden,” I predicted, scraping the bottom of my cup with a white plastic spoon. My son was barely starting his Swedish Fish layer.

We watched the sun starting to set and hover over the strip mall in the distance. Birds were chirping. We could hear the faint flow of traffic on the nearby turnpike. The adjacent field of wheat was like a green lawn waving in the wind.

When we got home, we left our trash in the car.

“I’ll get it later,” I said. “We don’t want to hurt your brother’s feelings.”

“We’re home,” I said as we came into the house.

My son put his violin and music books down next to the sofa where his brother was sitting with an open history book and his laptop on the coffee table next to him.

“Hi,” he said looking up for a split second before going back to his studies.

“Wait,” he looked up again and peered at his younger brother. “Why is your mouth all red?”

There we were, caught red lipped. We confessed what we had done. But that didn’t stop us from continuing our weekly after-violin caper.

This week once again, we sat glancing over the car dashboard at the garden and dipping spoons into our cups of water ice.

Our plants were bearing immature fruit and catching up to the size of our neighbors’ vegetables. Someone else had stopped by earlier and watered the garden. The sun hovered a little higher over the strip mall in the distance. Birds were still chirping. We continued to hear the faint flow of traffic on the nearby turnpike. And the adjacent field of wheat was at least up to our knees if we measured.

The groundhog family was nowhere to be seen, although our red beets were missing from the center garden row.

“I wonder what animal ate our beets,” my son said, happy that they were missing.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But if we see any groundhogs, we better check their lips.”

–c

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