Friday, January 1, 2016

A Million Little Things

We sit in a group, jumping into a conversation with no clear beginning or end. Ideas and commentary are tossed in, stirred, discussed and I see B grin before lobbing a groaner straight at me. I could see the pun coming, his face like a road map, easy to read but the destination always a surprise. C and I laugh, full throated howls while he cooks up another. 

Polished and polite enough to take tea with a queen, when the doors are closed C cusses like a sailor and tells stories bawdy enough to make Mae West proud. I love her like a sister. When stress and pressure builds, jokes slick with innuendo are passed between us, choice words whispered loud enough to make the eaves-dropping men laugh and blush. There will be payback and when we least expect it, a prank will be played to exact revenge. We plot with wives to surprise them with Christmas gag gifts and the circle continues.


These aren't casual acquaintances but friendships with memories spanning nearly a decade. We're a diverse group: men and women, liberal and conservative, married and single. We talk about everything but gardening for none of them are gardeners. These are a few of my "I'll always be there" people and the ties run deep. I do not chose my friends based on their gender, race, or religion. It is a spark, a connection, a feeling of ease and comfort frosted with the knowledge that when they reach out, I'll always reach back.

We are different, B and I. He's quiet and careful, a sports fan who loves his lawn. We've started to lose track of how long we've known each other and mark dates by the age of our children. Long running jokes punctuate conversations and I pretend to ignore him when he pulls out his wallet to bet me $20 my daughter will run off and get married. "I hope your wife has triplets", I reply. His shoulders shake as he laughs.


The swoosh of an incoming text breaks the silence as a picture of B with his son fills the screen. "Just saying hi!" They grin over a menu as they wait for their order, the rest of his family on the other side of the table. I struggled to control the emotional rip tide of my son's deployment to the middle east and he and C watched me slowly succumb, unmoored from my hope that he wouldn't leave. The deployment was repeatedly canceled only to be reassigned, a different date and mission appearing almost daily across my phone screen for weeks as my son passed along the news. A strong hug and gentle advice helped hold back the tears and when I couldn't stop the flow, he waited patiently, handing me tissues til I could speak with ease. We're open and honest and little goes unsaid. I send a smiley face back and tap open the next text.


"Get out of your head. Stop thinking so much! Go dig a hole." I can see C's face as I think of a response. "Easier said than done." I type. "I wish my brain had an off switch." "It's called wine" she shoots back and I start to smile.

C is loyal and fierce and knows me well. I toss the phone onto the patio table and head into the garden. My thoughts spin and loop until I tell myself to stop. Memories of previous deployments bubble to the surface and the tears start again. Multiple tours in Viet Nam, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan pepper family history and my stomach tightens. I take a deep breath, my forehead on my knees, grass soft against my feet. I know too much of war, of bodies never recovered and the silent specter of PTSD. Fear is not a wide mouthed monster but a gnawing beast that devours you in small bites until you're raw and exposed. My child is no longer a child but a solider and I am powerless to protect him.


New Years Eve 2012 
My 6'5" tall son and his sister one of the few times he was able to come home.

My phone rings, an irritating quack, and my head jerks up. I don't want to talk to anyone, to explain myself. I just want to be alone. M's name fills the top of the screen and I tap open the call.

"Hey, how's it going?" My voice cracks as I answer and I don't bother to hide the emotion. "I'm calling to check on you", she says quietly.

I'm sweating in the August heat and absently swipe at insects that inch along my arm. Hidden by mounds of perennials, it is not my garden that offers solace but the people who fill it. I sink into a patio chair and let my apprehension gush, flowing through the phone to pool at my feet. She doesn't tell me not to worry, that it's his job, he's an adult. She just listens, her voice calm on the other end. His plane is airborne and his final stop is a safe, well secured base. Hopefully, he'll be there for a while, I tell her, before heading north. I take a deep breath and relax for the first time in weeks.



Actions speak a truth words never will, small measures of honesty that reveal the transparency of a human heart. The measure of friendship doesn't lie in grand gestures but in the mundane, steady hum of a vibrating phone and knocks at my door. It comes as a steady pulse against clenched hands that reminds me I am stronger than what I fear. It is my true garden, a refuge more beautiful than anything I've ever planted. 



Part of the shade garden after a rain storm.

75 comments:

  1. Very touching and well-written Tammy. I am glad you have such good friends. I hope 2016 is kind to you.

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    1. Thanks, Alain! My hopes are for a peaceful year, too. :o)

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  2. The very kindest thoughts and good wishes to you for 2016. May your garden and your companions bring you peace and joy.

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  3. Your post is so touching, Tammy. Thank you!
    Happy New year, I wish you and your family good health and happiness!

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    1. Thank you for reading it! Happy New Year!

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  4. Your words have touched my heart and I am comforted. As mothers we have no other purpose in life but to love and protect our children. You have stilled my fear as I walk your journey with you while fearing for your son. Continue to trust that he will be okay.
    Your circle of friends sound just like mine, and we are so blessed to have genuine friends in our lives...the ones we can be ourselves with, who know us so well and who "will always be there" no matter what....give thanks.
    My prayers are with you.
    Wishing you and your family a ton of "incredibleness" for 2016!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Virginia! He is as safe as can be for where he's at and we're in frequent contact, which is so comforting. I truly have incredible friends! I love them all. :o)

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  5. A beautiful heartfelt post Tammy. With best wishes for a fruitful and productive new year in your life and garden.

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    1. Thanks, Elaine. Here's hoping for a peaceful new year for you, too. :o)

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  6. Glad you have folks to bolster you through this time. They are truly a garden of friendship.

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  7. Lovely post, Tammy. The worry starts at birth and never ends, does it - it only changes as time goes on. But my kids are still small and so are my worries in comparison to yours. I wish you and all your family the VERY best in 2016.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. Parents never do stop worrying, no matter how big or old the kids might be. Happy New Year to you, too!

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  8. Lovely ode to friends. But I wonder, is your son still in the military? Hope all is well with him and the rest of your family.

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    1. He is currently deployed to the middle east but is safe and doing well. :o)

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  9. Here's wishing you and yours a happy 2016, both in ad out of the garden!

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  10. I was touched by this post, I think our children keep us worrying until we die.
    Wish you ALL THE BEST for the New Year!

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    1. I think so, too. I hope you have a wonderful new year. :o)

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  11. Tough job being a Mom of a soldier. I'm glad you have rock solid friends, they are a blessing. I'm sure you are a rock for them when needed.

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    1. I like to think I'm a good friend. If you can't be there for people, you can't expect them to ever be there for you.

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  12. Heartfelt and beautifully written. Love the photograph of your kids - so attractive and such a great reflection on you. I wish a safe and happy New Year for you and all of your family.

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  13. Dear Tammy: Sorry you've had to face such difficult times. This is such a touching and beautifully written post. Your friends sound like wonderful people. Best wishes for peace and joy in the year ahead.

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    1. Thanks, Beth. He's able to communicate with us frequently thanks to a wi-fi hotspot, which is very comforting. :o)

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  14. Your post is a wonderful tribute to the power of friendship and your supportive friends in particular, Tammy. I hope your son has an opportunity to visit soon and that 2016 brings peace of mind - in a world as troubled as ours is, peace of mind may be all we can find.

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    1. thanks, Kris. He should be back in the States in early June and has a month of leave to spend with friends and family. We can hardly wait to see him!

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  15. Tammy, this is beautifully written with powerful emotion and strength. I will be thinking of you, your son, and family. I am so glad that you have a solid support group. The roots of a healthy garden that makes the blooms shine bright. Praying for peace and comfort in 2016. xo

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I wanted the reader to feel what I was feeling. I am hoping 2016 is more peaceful than last year.

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  16. Such a beautiful post,Tammy! I wish you a happy new year 2016!

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    1. Thank you, Satu! Happy New Year to you, too!

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  17. Tammy girl ... what can I say ... I think this post might be a catharses for you in a way ... having the words on "paper" out in the open is like letting a fresh breeze flow through out a stuffy house. That seems to simplify things but truly I understand how complicated your feelings are .. I am there with my husband and his PTSD from the Gulf War..
    It sounds like you do have so many good friends that can help anchor you and that is a gift and you are so right about actions verses words ... I wish you the best and the safest new year for you and your family .. hang in there girl.
    I almost forgot .. you asked me why I got rid of my Bittersweet vine ... it was a bloody monster I had to hack back too often, precariously balancing on a ladder while hubby tries to buffer my impending fall which could happen at any moment and squash the poor man .. it was just too much work in other words !! LOL
    Take care !
    Joy : )

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    1. Writing this was a cathartic and challenging experience. My father was a medic, as is my son, who served two tours in Viet Nam and suffered serious PTSD. My husband has a friend who has a burial marker at Arlington National Cemetery although his body was never recovered. He was so young. Sometimes knowing too much of the realities of a situation just makes it harder to accept. Although my son is in a very dangerous area, he is safe and able to communicate frequently with us. That has changed everything since his updates let me know he's ok.

      I am blessed to have a network of truly incredible friends who have been so supportive. I realized this summer that our true gardens are the people who fill our lives, not all the flowers and foliage. It seemed fitting to start the new year with a tribute to them.

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  18. A most moving post Tammy. Wishing you a happy new year. May it treat you, your son and friends gently..... and your garden too!

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    1. Thank you, Anna. I would love a gentle new year. Happy New Year to you, too. :o)

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  19. You made me cry! :) This is a beautiful post. Several of my friends have kids in the military and I'm familiar with the worries surrounding deployment. Take care. I'm glad that you have such a strong group of friends. They are fortunate to have you in their lives. I wish you and your family a safe and peaceful 2016.

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    1. Awwwww!!! I cried writing it. I hope we all have a peaceful new year. The world is way overdue.

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  20. What a heartfelt welcome to the new year. I wish you and yours all the best for 2016 and hope it brings you nothing but happiness... and a little pain, but just a little... being happy all the time sounds more like an overly medicated issue and the real world that is not.

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    1. Ya gotta take the bitter with the sweet. :o)

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  21. What a beautiful piece of writing a fantastic opener for the New Year. You have me sobbing here....
    How glad I am to know you have such strong friendships, yes....they are the true garden.
    I'm so pleased that you get regular updates from your son, and what beautiful children you have. All the very best to you and yours, may you have a lovely, peaceful year ahead.xxx

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    1. Thank you so much! I realized this summer how blessed I am with true friends. :o)

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  22. Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy New Year! Long-standing friends are one of the great treasures of life, and you have written a wonderful tribute to them. You have beautiful children. I can only dream how hard it is hard to watch them grow and leave the nest, to fly off to places that are unsafe. Our country owes a great debt to our military. Along with your fears, you must also feel a great deal of pride!

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    1. Despite the danger, I'm very proud of his choice and his commitment to his country. He's a good man. :o)

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  23. Wonderfull photos,Happy New Year,
    Best regard from Belgium.
    http://louisette.eklablog.com " blog my city Mons in Belgium"

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  24. Well, I'm all teary now, so thanks for that!! A beautiful post, Ms. Mariposa, full of testaments to friendship and family. Wishing you strength--because we parents need that as we send our not-so-little-ones out in the world. And wishing you and yours good years ahead: for gardening, friendships and family.

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    1. There were some tears when I was writing it, for sure. He'll be home in 5 months. :o)

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  25. What a beautiful and heartfelt post, Tammy! We always worry about our children, no matter their age, but having a child in the service has to be especially worrisome. Thank goodness for great friends--you are right, they are the true gardens for our souls. Gardening is great therapy, but there's nothing like a friend's shoulder to cry on or a hug from a friend. Wishing you a great year ahead and a safe and joyous return for your son in the coming months.

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    1. Thanks, Rose. I can hardly wait to see him again! :o)

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  26. Aw, so glad you have the support of good friends during a trying time! I have various family members that have been in the military, but I can't even imagine having a child in the service and dealing with so much worry. It is also the family of service members that make big sacrifices for our country. I wish you and your family peace and joy for 2016, and a safe return for your son!

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    1. A career in the military does affect the entire family. He was home in July and there were several times I thought, "What if this is the last time I hug him?" But that can be applied to any situation so we just lived in the moment while he was here.

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  27. A beautiful post, Tammy.

    Happy New Year. May 2016 be a safe, healthy and peaceful year for you and your family.

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    1. Thanks, Aaron! I hope the same for you, too. :o)

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  28. I want 2016 to be peaceful. Just peaceful, that's all. Thank you for writing Tammy!

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  29. Oh Tammy how beautiful....those connections are the most important thing in our lives....you are rich my friend. Happy New Year!

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    1. I am blessed to be so rich in friends. Lucky, indeed!

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  30. I find that I value friends more and more. Perhaps it is the experience you gain with maturity. My heart goes out to you Tammy!

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    1. Thanks, Jen and I agree completely! I don't find friendship disposable at all. I cherish the wonderful people I meet because you never know how long they'll be with you. Ya gotta love 'em while ya got 'em! :o)

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  31. Gorgeous as always, pal. And your writing ain't too bad either! Can't imagine the emotions watching your child's deployment would elicit but wish you and the world peace. May 2016 find you safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous.

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    1. Thanks, Peter. :o) He's doing well and in weekly contact, which is a daily comfort. :o) All the same wishes for you, too.

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  32. Tammy - what a beautifully written post...and painfully and lovingly alive! The year is young, and I hope it will bring your son's laughter back home, and a more peaceful year for us all.

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    1. Thanks, Anna. :o) He'll be back in early summer and we can hardly wait!

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  33. Happy New Year, Tammy and what a deeply emotional, touching, gut-wrenching, saddening, heart-warming, comforting and funny and serious way to start it. Sending you lots of love. Sunil x

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  34. You know I have been thinking of this post a lot. Quite a lot. I'll be honest I didn't know what to say that didn't sound trivial or inconsequential or whatever. I was and am deeply moved by your thoughts, your pain and your strength. We are blessed with true and abiding friends in this life, they are pure gold,

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    1. True friends are rare and beautiful, indeed. :o)

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  35. Dear Tammy, such powerful and moving words. Life is so complicated, that love and war co-exist. I wish you and your family and friendship circle a safe-as-possible, happy-as-possible and healthy-as-possible 2016. I am thinking about your words that love is our true refuge, not the actual garden. A beautiful garden can be sterile, gardening can be merely a distraction. You've really made me think about the meaning of life, what is truly important ... thank you.

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    1. What a touching comment. Thank you so much! A garden is just a stage, a set. The true story comes from all the people who fill it and to be surrounded by people who love you is an enormous gift. :o)

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  36. This was such a heartfelt post. My son is in the military also. In the past he was deployed in the Middle East. One of the most worrisome times of my and my husband's life. He is stationed elsewhere now, and may get to come home and visit this summer. When he leaves home again after visiting it's always a difficult time for me. Usually my eyelids get chapped on those days from crying.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you so much, Susie! It is so hard to know they're in a dangerous spot. He was home last summer and there were tears on a few occasions. I can hardly wait to see him again. :o)

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  37. When things get tough it's family that pulls us through. Not things, not money, but family. Best wishes for the coming year.

    I love the Pooh quote...

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