The other morning, The Kid and I were on our morning walk with Baby and dog in tow. The dog had stopped to poop so The Baby and I paused on the sidewalk in one of the Top Three Most Interesting Yards on our street.
For some reason, three artsy hippy families bought houses in close proximity to one another and their yards are spectacular. There’s one that features a large iron tree with empty wine bottles stuck on the branches. There’s the orange and purple house with a Greek statue out front who dresses up for holidays (I can’t think of what he’s wearing now but I definitely remember him wearing Shamrock glasses and a green leprechaun hat for Saint Patrick’s Day.)
This yard, where The Baby and I had stopped, is the house that might look a little more haunted than artsy to the untrained eye but I have now walked past that house at least 100 times and I just get it. The plants that spill over the sidewalk are so fragrant; if you look carefully, you can see the charm- the ceramic frog in the top hat leaning jauntily on a broken cane, the overturned clay duck planter whose duck butt sticks into the air. While it may be the ugliest of the Interesting Houses Trio, it is quickly becoming one of our favorites.
When The Kid caught up to us, he paused for a moment and we both looked at each other and said at the same time, “Honeysuckle!” The smell was so strong that the hidden vine beckoned to us from the sidewalk. The Kid took a little detour through the overgrown grass and bushes and found the honeysuckle vine, tucked away inside another bush. He grabbed us each a flower and brought it over to me.
If you’ve never experienced honeysuckle, you need to. Once you pick the flower off the plant, you have to locate a little green orb at the base that kind of looks like the rubberized end of a bobby pin. When you gently pull that green plastic-looking ball, the center pistil (some flower part that I just wasted minutes of my life researching) slides and right at the tippy top is one small drop of dew that tastes so good and so sweet, it’ll make you want to slap your pappy.
As a kid, my sister and I would down hundreds of drops of dew over the course of a day. There is something comforting, almost reverent, about this routine. If you rip the flower off the bush, you risk not having a tiny green bead to pull. If you pull the bead too quickly, you risk tearing the flower and you can kiss that dew bye-bye. You have to do each step, just so, slowly and purposefully to reach the treasure at the end of the pistil.
This yard, and this honeysuckle bush, are now a regular stop on our morning walks. Yesterday, without my permission or knowledge, The Kid ripped a bunch of the flowers off and stuck them in the cup holder of the stroller to save “for later”. He did “do the Dew” a few times on our walk but when we got home, they had lost their appeal and I ended up throwing the shriveled, un-undewed flowers in the yard.
I thought about that for a while. What exactly is the appeal of the honeysuckle plant?
This is ‘Merica, dagnabit, so obviously, it would be way better if I were able to drive to Kroger, buy two gallons of honeysuckle nectar while not wearing a mask (#patriot), and then sit on my couch while binge-watching Tiger King and drinking ice-cold nectar out of a 40 ounce Yeti cup that has ‘Boss Bitch’ emblazoned across the side in tie-dye acryclic lettering.
Obviously, that would be better. It’s more American than having to trek a quarter mile to someone’s haunted yard, use your sense of smell to hunt down a honeysuckle vine, pick a single flower, and then spend several seconds pulling out the pistil to get one drop of honey flavored goodness.
But The Kid’s loss of interest in his handful of flowers as soon as they were detached from the vine leads me to wonder if maybe part of the appeal of the honeysuckle is the hunt and the work involved in harvesting the dew.
Like, maybe honeysuckle tastes so good precisely because of the effort it takes.
Gosh, I wish that weren’t true.
I’ve been reflecting on how parenting The Baby thus far has been much like enjoying a drop of honeysuckle. There are days when it feels like we’re putting in so much effort, so much time and energy, and we don’t get a drop -NOT EVEN A DROP- in return.
So many days.
But there are also days where all of our hard work pays off and that drop of dew tastes fucking better than anything I can imagine.
As an example, The Baby didn’t sit up on his own until well after his second birthday. There were days when we thought he might never do it. The therapists kept promising that it would come but we started to get tired. Until one fateful day, when his occupational therapist told me she wanted to show me something. I sat on the floor of his hippie daycare while other naked children ran around screaming and swinging on ropes and watched him do this:
There really is nothing like it. And it was all of the effort and work that was required to get him to that point that made it that much sweeter. If he had just breezed through his developmental stages, then we would have noted his sitting up for the first time, maybe even cheered, but it wouldn’t have felt magical like this did.
I’ve joined a couple of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome Parents facebook groups. I’ll be honest- many of the posts are grim. If I’m looking into the crystal ball of my future, it looks like lots of hospital visits and med changes and soft-sided helmets and carseats and strollers and safety beds for teens and adults and being besties with your neurologist. But these bleak posts are punctuated by pictures of smiling children, enjoying their wheelchair swings, holding a spoon for the first time, going a whole day with no seizures. And there’s something about those happy posts that lifts my heart a little.
Jesus talked a lot about “the kingdom of heaven”. He preached a series of weird parables where he started off with “The Kingdom of heaven is like” and then he made these wack metaphors that are barely understandable. Growing up, I interpreted these passages as Jesus talking about heaven, where you supposedly go when you die, but I now understand that Jesus was talking about the kingdom of heaven here on earth, an alternative reality lurking underneath all of the oppression and violence and greed. Every once in a while, the kingdom of heaven breaks through, a shining moment of goodness and love and hope and peace.
Even if you don’t buy the “kingdom of heaven” language, surely you’ve experienced a moment where the kind words of a stranger or the blanket of stars unmarred by light pollution or watching an act of selflessness has rendered you speechless. That’s what I’m talking about.
Jesus’s kingdom of heaven parables always involve some kind of effort. The kingdom of heaven is never poured into your lap or brought to you on the backs of slaves. You have to get up, hide that treasure, cast that net, hire those vineyard laborers, sow those seeds. You have to listen to the kind words of the stranger or drive out of the city or pay attention to the act of selflessness.
The kingdom of heaven, the good stuff, takes work, a fact that is rudely un-American.
I don’t want to work or toil or struggle. I do not want both/and. I want either/or. I want answers, damnit, fast and easy and final. My son has LGS? I want medical solutions equivalent to a microwaved burrito- quick and straightforward.
But, that’s not how life works.
I’m anticipating that this journey to find the “honeysuckle” sweet moments is going to become more arduous than it even was before, if you can believe it. There will be days where we feel like the illusive honeysuckle vine- with that sweet dew drop of progress- must be on the backside of a thorn-covered mountain, deep inside a poisonous cave, guarded by a pile of angry, venomous snakes and sopping wet paper. I cannot look forward to those days.
But I’m also anticipating the moments when we will finally reach a honeysuckle vine, a pleasant surprise as we hang off a cliff by our fingertips, or a much-needed-relief after an unwanted encounter with a box jellyfish.
We still have sweet moments ahead. We’ll have to fight for them tooth and nail. There are no shortcuts or choices to take the easy way out, but we still get to have them.
I have a small clipping of that neighbor’s honeysuckle vine in my kitchen window to help me remember, as I metaphorically lay bruised and beaten on a trail, to keep going, to keep my nose open for the sweet smell of the honeysuckle vine that means something good is coming.