Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island

the teacher nights


I should preface this posting with a mention that my daughter will probably kill me when she reads it.

Yesterday, we unpacked  and put away the contents of the last of the unopened boxes brought from the city three years ago. Our bedroom is finally sorted out and we look like we live in an adult type bedroom not a frat house.

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In one of the boxes we found the following essay my daughter had written about me eleven years ago when she was thirteen. I had never seen it before.  Once I accepted the fact that she had told the high school I was nuts, I was struck at the similarity of our writing styles.

One man’s junk is another man’s daunting task

When it comes to gardening, my mother can get a bit crazy. Now that doesn’t mean she loses her marbles every time she sees a flower. It’s more like she’ll go to ridiculous lengths to achieve the perfect garden.

As her loving child – and by that I mean servant – it was my duty to aid her in her quest to create the perfect garden. Usually they were simple tasks like shoveling an entire truck load of mulch and gravel or weeding the entire garden of alien vines that sucked the life out of her prized plants.

But one spring morning, I awoke to an entirely new and an entirely unexpected task.

My mother had called me outside to help her unload a few gardening items from the truck. Now I – possibly because I was young and still naive to the ways of my parents, had expected a few potted plants or maybe a new garden hose. I was not, however, prepared for what I saw. Our big, old, rusty, brown Ford truck was packed to the brim with junk! Big wooden crates, old boots, rusty bird-cages, chandeliers and what appeared to be a giant thread wheel towered over me in its attempt to reach the heavens. I  was speechless, to say the least.

I stared at my mother, desperate to understand what in the world I was supposed to be doing with a pile of garbage. She just grinned at me and told me to start moving the items into the backyard. Once, I had fully digested the situation, it occurred to me that it was the day before spring clean up and that my mother had just spent the morning rifling through people’s garbage.

Once I had unloaded everything into the back garden, my visibly excited mother came outside, followed by my visibly confused father. As I look out at the lawn strewn with garbage, I began to worry that perhaps my mother was partaking in a weird “trailer trash chic” gardening fad. These thoughts left my mind, however, when she began to explain her strange idea.

She wanted to strategically place each item around the garden and have plants grown inside and around  them, she wanted to turn the thread wheel into a table. she wanted to hang the old chandeliers off of posts in our  yard and replace the burn out light bulbs with candles. She wanted to paint the old boots with bright colours and turn them into makeshift pots for plants.

All these ideas, she said, had come to her while driving back from the grocery store and seeing all the things people were throwing out that could easily have been fixed and reused. My mother should have been a spokes woman for recycling.

In a weird way though she was right. Why was this generation, unlike the ones that came before it, so wasteful. We had wholes days devoted to chucking out the old and bring in the new, even when there was nothing wrong with the old. When my mother was my age, her family and all her friends families reused and recycled like there was no tomorrow. They were frugal and they were proud of it.

These days it’s all about the latest fashions and the newest gadgets. Out with the old and in with the new. My generation is one of greed and wastefulness. Which isn’t to say that previous generations weren’t wasteful its just that the current generation seems to have upped the ante in that department.

All my mother wanted to do was her part for mother nature and if she can teach others to be like that then all the better. And in the end, much to my surprise the garden actually turned out pretty nice. Unfortunately, even after achieving the perfect garden, my mother still retained a lit bit of her gardening craziness.

JP  Block E   24/24

This essay might now explain the strange looks I used to get at the high school meet

the teacher nights                                    june 12th 2008 011


Author: Off Grid Islanders

We are a retired couple living on an off grid island on the West Coast

9 thoughts on “the teacher nights

  1. Your bedroom looks beautiful !

  2. A very talented writer, just like her mother.

  3. Thank you for watering Renate’s garden during our absence. You must have noticed, while doing so, that we have a rather large collection of “garden worthy” items that we would gladly donate to your garden decorating project, We have been considering having the barge come over and letting them take our items to the landfill but why not just donate them to someone with such a fine artistic vision and thus save valuable land fill space for something more worthy of disposal. We will gladly engage in more specific discussion when we return. Carty.

    • You are too kind….. Sadly my current garden is one tenth the size of the old one and I have no more room… But hey if you want to get rid of some of those beautiful rocks… I am your girl….. 🙂 Anne is doing most of the work in your garden and the sun is a decent adversary… we are no fairing too well…. best get back and take care of things yourself!!!!!! 🙂

  4. I hope your daughter got an A+ on this assignment. She is an amazing writer! And that might explain the looks from the teachers…although it could be disbelief or admiration!

    • The only other paper I saw her submit in high school was titled “It isn’t a small world, stop singing”.. wherein she described how I ruined her life by taking her to Disneyland instead of our usual camping trip … :0 kids!!!!

  5. Your daughter has certainly picked up your writing talents! Thanks again for my laugh of the day!

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