We were in the garden, E and me. These photos look so similar to my mornings there with F. They blend together, which feels strange. I can so easily recall conversations and adventures and scraped knees and weird sightings there with F – even the ones that happened a few seasons ago. But I can’t remember that same level of detail with my older girl, the first time around. Is one layer overlapping another one, or is it simply an issue of time? Ten years isn’t nothing. She’s a gangly teenager now, rarely skipping, or even wearing a hat for that matter. She used to live in hats, indoors and outdoors, for years.
F and I call those stepping stones in the English Woodland Garden the “secret paths”. She convinced me that they were undiscovered until the day she stumbled upon them, weaving in and out of the trees, over a gurgling little stream and back again. I let her convince me because I didn’t recall walking on them or spending much time on them. But there’s photographic proof that I was there before she even entered my life. I’m pretty sure E was also a dozen stones ahead of me, always. I’m sure she dragged sticks across the ground behind her, and dropped leaves in at the top of the stream, and followed them as they moved alongside her. Her voice probably carried through the trees on the quiet of the morning. She slipped in the mud and stepped out onto perches in the water, waiting for me to remind her to come back to the path. I’d like to see a map of the garden, dotted with each spot where she sat down in the middle of the walk and declared that she could not, would not, walk another step. Those dots would cover half the trails, and F would fill the gaps.
Where do they overlap, these dots, if I carry this thought forward? What if I could trace them in transparent lines within the confines of this one space? Then I could see where they overlap, where we spent the most time, where one was most like the other, even when skipping. What if I could place a little flag in areas where something significant happened, the moment we realized that the jumping fountains had been fixed, or the time we stretched out across the lawn covered in yellow ginko leaves because they were just too beautiful to walk past?
Would I drop a flag in that spot where I lifted a tantrum-ing E and carried her, kicking and screaming, all the way back to the entrance, through the building, and across the parking lot to our car? I could certainly drop flags at all the locations along that march of shame where people commented on my child or my parenting. I remember where we received a band-aid from a gardener for a bleeding foot, and a brief reprieve from the shoes on requirement. Remember that wooden trellis and bridge that used to be near the Linnean House? The girls never fell in, although I was convinced that eventually it would happen. It’s gone now too, but F still points out its absence every visit.
Maybe the overlapping just continues, and the definition slowly fades. It will be quiet there again, and I’ll feel a little silly walking across those stones by myself. I’ll look for a good leaf, and drop it in. There’s a perfect spot for it, I know it by heart. I’ll watch it tumble through the gentle rapids and remember it all again.