I run out of money every summer.
I run out of money just before the end of every semester, in fact, and spend the last month before the new influx of student loans gnawing on my knuckles with worry, but the summer is the worst. The end of August is always brutal, and I wonder again – as I wonder so often – if this all is going to blow up in my face, if I am wrong to be trying to get a degree while the single parent to two children, if I really just need to put my head down, get a job at Wal-Mart, and do what it takes to feed my family.
The thing is, this is me doing what it takes to feed my family. Mine is a long-term vision, a vision that believes that the me who is an educated woman is not only potentially more employable but also a better citizen, a more fulfilled version of herself, and therefore both a better parent and a better role model to the two small women who share her home.
But Jesus, Augusts are hard. They’re my least favourite month; I dread them. I get halfway through them and find myself trapped in a quicksand of forlornity*, a quicksand of WTF have I done and WTF am I doing? I wonder how to do things like buy gas. I wonder what I will do if for some reason my student loans come in late. I wonder about my kids’ school supply lists.
I have a wee yard. Traditionally I leave it weeded-over, going for the natural look, I tell my neighbours when they look at me with raised eyebrows, but this year in the spring I dug out all of the weeds and turned the dirt, and then I planted little rows of beans and peas, a squash, a hill of corn, a handful of potatoes. I put in tomatoes and zucchini. “I don’t think that’s going to grow,” the occasional friend and/or neighbour would say helpfully, being familiar with my drought-and-drown method of gardening. I’d shrug. “Well,” I’d say, “that’s okay. Let’s just see what happens.”
The other morning my youngest daughter and I went out and surveyed the garden like the farmer in oats and beans and barley grow:
First the farmer sows the seed
Then he stands and takes his ease
Stamps his feed and claps his hands
And turns around to view his land
“Let’s see if we got any potatoes,” I said, and we, still in our pajamas, put on our little green gardening gloves and began to dig. We brought in four buckets of potatoes, and a zucchini large enough to feed a small country, like Lichtenstein, or possibly Iceland. We gathered up basil and blended it with garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts into a cheese-free pesto. We picked a spaghetti squash, and watered the corn, each stalk sprouting a red-headed ear.
We bagged up the potatoes and handfuls of beans and gave them to friends and neighbours.
We grated about a sixteenth of the mammoth zucchini and made zucchini bread.
Later we made chocolate zucchini cake, and brought it as our offering to friends who invited us for dinner. This morning, I grated three of our yellow-jacketed potatoes for hashbrowns and I thought: it is August, and I always worry in August that we don’t have enough. But we did this – we grew our own food, and we have enough to eat. Better yet, we have enough to share.
I am still a bit desperate for student loans to come in, and I look forward to next week with much enthusiasm. But we have zucchini bread, and tomatoes ripening on their vines, and carrots enthusiastically waving their green tops above the ground.
It is harvest time, and I see I could fall in love with August after all.
*if that’s not a word, it should be