I woke up at a friend’s apartment on Saturday morning to a google alarm. I had volunteered to spend the day gardening at a co-op in Brooklyn, and my email alarm was kindly reminding me of my responsibility. I was still in my dress and tights from the night before and not well rested. Head aching, eyes hardly opened, I made myself a makeshift skirt out of one of Leah’s tank tops and threw on an old t shirt. I didn’t go because I was honoring my commitment. I went because I wasn’t fully awake and my body was operating on auto pilot. I woke up on the A train to Utica Avenue and slapped my cheeks awake. In my crankiness, I didn’t expect much out of the day, besides further headache, but when I found the fenced in square filled with mounds of black dirt and shovels, something in me woke up.
The smell of dirt was better than coffee. The blisters from shoveling were multiplying and I loved every shower of dirt that flew out behind me. There were lots of other volunteers, and after an hour or two of silent grunting and heaving and sleep working, I started to get to know some of them. Actors from Indiana, graphic designers from Massachusetts, NYU students from Pennsylvania, mothers from Georgia; some coming from around the corner, others trekking out from Manhattan. All with busy lives and responsibilities, some with families and high stress jobs; all of them here on Saturday morning to throw dirt and make a garden for the community.
And then there were the children. A handful of toddling, wobbling creatures, burrowing and racing through the trenches. They threw dirt, ate dirt, and made piles of their own. At the end of the day, the children made the garden worth every bit of work it took to get it ready for planting. These kids, whose parents are from all over, are all from New York. This is their childhood. Gardening in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning. Dodging shovels and racing through mazes, keeping up their little bursts of energy with donuts and apple slices, and throwing worms at the big people throwing dirt.
My back still hurts from Saturday. What a pain in the ass to wake up early and volunteer a day to backbreaking manual labor. You’d think so, but I haven’t smiled that hard in a long time. Haven’t missed earthworms since I was little. Every one should garden on Saturdays. It makes New York feel a little more like home. It makes home feel a little bit more like yours. And if you’re lucky, you might even find an earth worm in your pocket later that night. A token of love from a kid who will never forget what it was like to grow up New York.