My first garden was planted in a Dixie cup. My kindergarten teacher passed out the paper cups and marigold seeds, then troweled mounds of dark earth into each of our "flower pots." A few sprinkles of water were added to our dirt to create what looked like mud. Finally she showed us how to gently push our marigold seeds down into the dirt.
That afternoon, I took my Dixie cup garden home, carefully carrying the cup in my chubby fingers until I arrived safely in the kitchen. I lodged my cup on the windowsill where it would have a good view of the sun.
Each morning I'd race from my bedroom to the kitchen, drag a chair to the counter and peer into my cup. But it always looked the same: brown, muddy dirt in a cup. Faithfully, I watered the soil. Loyally, I turned the cup so that all sides experienced equal exposure to the sun. But each day, the inspection of my Dixie cup garden revealed nothing. Zip. Garden? Right. My "garden" was just brown dirt in a cup. I begged my mother to let me dig up that seed to see what it was doing down there in a dark. While she gave me permission, she also warned me that doing so would interrupt its growth and perhaps stop it altogether, so I resisted.
So much of mothering has been like this Dixie cup garden. I fill a cup with my best provisions and plant the seeds of my dreams and desires. Then I sit, waiting, staring at the brown dirt in a cup, wondering when something will grow from my efforts. At six months, I might see the flower bud of a precious new life, but I also see the mud of sleeplessness when that baby's cries rouse me from the sleep I desperately need. Then there are the struggles of toddlerhood when poopy pants outnumber successful trips to the potty. More brown dirt in a cup (or in some kind of container!). In some seasons of my children's development, the only things that rose from the dirt were dandelions ? weeds where I was sure I'd planted flowers.1