I love kids. I especially love my kids …
but not during February. As a matter of fact, I
don’t like anybody very much during February.
February lands smack in the middle of the
worst quarter of the year. January brings
the letdown after Christmas. No holidays after new Year’s. Nothing.
February in other parts of the country may
be glorious, but in the Chicago area it’s
gray – gray sky, gray snow, gray streets, gray slush, gray clothes,
gray cars, gray
March brings more nothingness, more gray,
So how is it – year after year – people survive Chicago winters
without going stark raving
bananas? I have a theory.
Did you ever see a garden catalog? Those
things have contributed more to our mental
health during this dismal quarter of the year than anything else.
Here’s how it works.
After Christmas, the family takes down the tree and all the
decorations. The house looks
dismal, the family sinks into a funky slump and I get crabby.
The very next day, the first garden
catalog arrives. Then another, then another. On the
cover and inside are spectacular photos of bright yellow sweet corn,
delicate snapdragons, dwarf apple trees, brilliant marigolds and
zucchinis, giant pumpkins and the perfect flowering ground cover for
the shady spot in
Who cares about the wintry wind outside?
My mind is filled with hopes and dreams and
Maybe we’re slicing
orange-Styrofoam-store-bought-tomatoes now, but come summer,
we’ll have red, ripe, juicy homegrown ones.
And maybe I’ll start a rose garden and
fill the yard with a riot of color. Or maybe I’ll plant
this beautiful purple climbing clematis and let it smother the fence
with leaves and
As I’m gleefully flipping through the
pages, my husband launches into his annual (or rather
perennial) recital of Murphy’s Law of the Garden: "Lettuce will cost
more than a buck a
head until the very moment your garden lettuce is ready to harvest, at
which point all
stores will put lettuce on sale, three heads for a nickel."
The man has no vision for vegetables, no
fantasy for flora. Winter has withered his
So what happens if all my gardening dreams
don’t come to fruition? To me, it doesn’t
It doesn’t matter if the crops fail, if
the bugs eat everything, if a disease kills the plants. It
doesn’t matter if I never plant anything.
My favorite part of gardening takes place
right now during this miserable quarter of the
year – cuddling up with my catalogs and savoring the photos in
January, selecting and
ordering the plants in February and making a mental layout of where
bloom in March.
As I curl up with my garden catalogs and
gaze out the window at the gray world, I realize
they not only offer hope, and help preserve my sanity during this
dismal Chicago winter,
they also renew my faith in one of the most optimistic phrases in the
"This, too, shall pass."