Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mr MacGregor's Gardening Legacy

Its Day Three of summer camp and I have the little monkeys pretty well-trained. So well-trained that I can take them out in public and trust that they won't commit any misdemeanors (at least while I am looking at them). One of the promises in the Camp Catalog was that "the children will visit the Community Gardens." We duly hiked the three blocks, in the 90 degree heat. It was a lovely walk through the park, even with 10 five and six year olds. Since actual City employees wrote the blurb, I assumed we'd be welcome there, since its another City installation.


When we finally arrived (they have very short legs), I reviewed the rules (hands off the plants, stay on the paths), we broke into groups (I had a helper) and we started exploring. There were two large gardens with individual plots, and the place was bursting with plants. The children were excited to be there, looking around, but not touching. They whipped out their sketchbooks and immediately started drawing. They had lots of questions about everything, but mostly they were intent on their task. I was very proud of them.

The Willy Nilly Child Death Garden Posse Hard at Work

A gentleman who was watering his plants approached me. He seemed visibly upset. He spoke at length about the "hearts and souls" people put into the garden. He told me to remind the children to "stay on the path" and "stay away from the plants." I did my professional best to allay his fears. He walked off and I thought he was gone. A few minutes later he returned, this time he was waving his cell phone at me. "This is the Community Garden Coordinator, and she want to talk to you!" he announced. I wasn't sure what my reactions should be to this magnificent and powerful demigogue. The voice on the other end accused me of letting the children run "willy-nilly." After I heard that I stopped listening. When her rampage stopped I politely said "thank you" and passed the phone back. He wasn't done. He raised a finger and pointed to a little boy quietly drawing on a side path. "That is not the MAIN PATH!" he cried, "that is a SIDE PATH!" I asked the perplexed child to move, and he did.

The man finally stomped away.

We weren't even threatening his lettuces.


H said...

Argh! I hope the children didn't overhear your conversation with the community garden nazi. You'd think they would be pleased to have children touring the gardens and enjoying the flowers. Do they not understand the definition of "community"??

John B. said...

Hmm--community garden as art museum, complete with velvet ropes (the "forbidden" side paths).

You'd think that, on the contrary, he (and other gardeners) would be thrilled to see kids (especially well-behaved, sketchpad wielding ones) there--it's to succeeding generations, after all, that the idea of a community garden will be passed down. It's a sad thing when, even in a public space and even when kids are behaving well, people feel compelled to engage in a neo-Victorian "children should be seen and not heard" attitude.

I know you know all this. It's just that, as a parent myself, I on the one hand do think people should be more (politely, gingerly) pro-active when it comes to engaging with and monitoring the behavior of children not their own but who, on the other, take real offense when, as in this instance, "monitoring" becomes unwarranted threatening (and worse).

Sorry to go on so.

Fritz said...


You shoulda pointed your camera at the Powerful Demigogue.

The Nikkster said...

I hope the sketching experience was worth the weariness of the mad gardener. Guess he was protecting his private little public garden plot.

rosa said...

I feel like I should apologize on behalf of my fellow gardeners.
On their side I can understand a little bit, maybe they had kids come through who were less than model little humans, etc. but really, how silly! I mean, it's just a garden! (I can't believe I said that.)
Poor man. It doesn't sound like he was enjoying his time in the garden very much...(and if I ever get like that, just slap me, and then run willy-nilly through my lettuces.)

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