Weeds. I hate ’em these days but there was a time (eight years ago, in fact) that they became my best friend.
It was 2003. We had just moved from the noisy streets of Bondi, away from the backpackers and the endless parties, into a rented art deco flat in quiet Clovelly. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child and we felt the need to find a quiet little nook where we could raise Baby.
We’d been in Clovelly for a good six months before I gave birth. We hadn’t actually MET anyone in the neighbourhood, what with working full time and not getting home until dark and all. But after giving birth and no longer having to traipse off to paid work every morning (my sole occupation was now the care of this gorgeously chubby bundle of joy) and suddenly I found myself feeling quite foreign in my own backyard.
I loved that I was now a stay-at-home mum. Baby and I would hang out on the tiny patch of grass that fronted our apartment and watch the world go by. Well, no, actually there wasn’t a great deal to watch “go by” in our quiet little street, and, while Baby thought that kicking around on a blanket was entertaining enough, the truth was, I was sometimes bored senseless.
Now, bordering this little patch of green was a badly neglected garden bed. I’d barely noticed it before but suddenly it became a thing of interest. Our landlord, Harry, usually came to tend to it but he’d been hospitalised for a time and so the little plot had gone wild with weeds. There weren’t even any actual, real, non-weed plants growing in it. While Baby lay on the mat and tried to figure out how to roll over, I decided that I was going to pull those mothers out! Every last one of them. For Harry! When he was better, he’d come back to a clear plot rather than the jungle of weeds it had become.
Rip, rip, rip. Out they came. It felt great! I had something to DO (besides look after Baby, of course). I was outdoors and, goddamn it, I was productive! I probably should’ve read a book or something more relaxing but after giving birth it took a while for me to remember HOW to read a book. Anyway, after 30 minutes that garden bed was NAKED!
I stood back and surveyed the scene. What next? I didn’t know how to garden! Wasn’t gardening for, like, old people?
A couple of days later, Adele, a little old Austrian woman, from up the street, stopped and introduced herself. She’d noted the voracious weeding and informed me that she’d drop by again with some cuttings from her garden. Sure enough, the following day I opened the back door and found a few little pots of cuttings, ready to plant.
I planted these offerings from Adele and waited for them to grow. Meanwhile, Adele’s little visits on her daily walk became a part of our routine. Nothing fancy. Just a little chat about my baby, her grandchildren and, of course, gardening.
Another neighbour, Di, who I had watched transform her front lawn into a festival of colour, began to offer me advice and bits and pieces from her garden. Inspired, I went to the nursery and blew about $50 on potted colour. I couldn’t wait to get home and put it in the ground.
Each morning, I’d walk out to my garden and check to see if anything had grown overnight. That’s how excited I was. Adele and Di began to admire my garden. I could tell they felt pleasure in watching the gardening bug catch on.
I was no longer a foreigner in this neighbourhood. I had gardening mentors! Out of the woodwork came a multitude of other mums and bubs and eventually we’d all hang out on the street, or walk to the park together, or play in my little garden or out the front of Adele’s place. Adele became a surrogate grandmother to all the children in the street. And in the end I felt a sense of belonging thanks to that little patch of garden that had once sprouted all those weeds.
Baby's 2nd birthday party. On the right you can see my little garden where it all began.
By the time we moved away three years later, there was quite a nursery of children in the street. Oct 2006. A week before we said farewell to Sydney.