He saw it at Hobby Lobby and it was love at first sight. Like most instant connections, there was no way to explain the attraction. A nine-year-old boy begs for a strawberry growing kit for Christmas and the rest is a flash of snowman wrapping paper. Of course, he wanted to plant his strawberries on Christmas day, but I convinced him to wait until it was closer to spring. About three weeks ago, he asked if it was close enough. We were ensconced in winter fatigue, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to force some sprouts and maybe in the process force some spring.
He was really excited. I told him to follow the instructions exactly as printed. The water had to be room temperature, so he left a cup out on the counter overnight to make sure it was precise. He soaked the peat discs until it was a muddy pudding, spreading the muck evenly in the tray. The seed packet contained about two dozen darling strawberry seeds. He sprinkled them on top and then pushed each about 1/8th of an inch into the soil—just like the directions commanded. Finally, he pressed the clear plastic dome roof on top of the tray, creating a protective greenhouse for his little strawberry enterprise. He carried it around the house looking for the perfect sunny spot or bright light, changing his mind numerous times over the course of several days. I warned him that the seeds might be sensitive to so many sudden changes. He needed to pick a spot and leave it alone. He settled on the kitchen windowsill, which faces south and gets a lot of sun.
The seed packet claimed it would take 6-8 days to see sprouts. We waited. He checked it several times a day. Condensation collected on the inside of the dome, making it tricky to see what was going on inside. Then one morning, he screamed with elation that he saw sprouts! I couldn’t really tell, but I noticed some tiny whitish patches and agreed. I was happy for him.
But the white patches didn’t change. One day, while he was at school, I popped open the lid to look and discovered the dots we saw were only some kind of whitish film growing on the still-moist soil. I replaced the lid and put it back on the window sill. More than enough time had passed for sprouts. I wondered if he over-watered it? If moving it around too much killed the crop? I felt rotten for him. He was going to be really disappointed—and he is a kid who doesn’t handle disappointment well. He = Charlie Brown. The strawberries = Lucy’s football.
I wanted him to have a victory. I wanted him to succeed. So, I hatched a rescue plan. I’d go to Hobby Lobby and buy another strawberry kit. I’d plant it and switch it with the dud on the windowsill. And I wouldn’t tell him.
But I never made it to Hobby Lobby. Every time I stood at the kitchen sink, I’d see the pathetically barren plastic green house and my heart would hurt. Why was I keeping it? Why couldn’t I just sit him down and say, “I’m sorry…” and help him navigate yet another yanked football?
Yesterday morning, after the kids went off to school and I wrapped up my morning kitchen chores, I picked up the container and glanced inside. There were two delicate but valiant sprouts. They hadn’t read the instructions on their own seed packet, because it was nearly three weeks after they were planted. I took pictures of them and cooed over my son’s green babies. He did it! Not me, the one who was so ready to interfere and intervene. I was going to be a swooper, blindly diving down to pluck my boy away from heartache not realizing I was about ready to tear away a true, honest triumph with my mama bird beak and talons.