Everybody Outside!

“I am the breakfast cook!” my youngest son, Jonce, announces with a grin on a recent October Sunday. “Anything you want: eggs, bacon, yogurt, berries granola, pancakes with chocolate chips or bananas? You name it; I’ll make it.”

Jonce is wearing a bathrobe made of bright white toweling and beat-up slippers; his wavy gray hair is tousled.

I am dressed. Ready for the day. “Great!” I say. “I’m for the granola, berries and yogurt and maybe I’ll have one pancake when you do some for the kids.”

“This granola is really good, Mom,” he tells me. “You’ll like it.”

“Coffee?” he offers. “I can make you some decaf?”


Gradually the kids appear. Lock, at thirteen, is growing like a weed, his body catching up with his already large hands and feet. He is ardent about Lacrosse and sports in general—a passion he shares with his father. His sister, Maggie, at 15, is blonde and blue-eyed, a competitive rider and also taking three AP courses as a high school sophomore.

My daughter-in-law, Janice, arrives in the kitchen, her coffee already in hand. She is a partner in a vast New York law firm and a terrific cook. Janice is wearing black sweat pants and a blue sweatshirt.

We slide into chairs at the kitchen table, eating and talking. Eyeing Lock’s stack of chocolate chip pancakes, I ask the “breakfast cook” for one plain one and soon it is on my plate swimming in maple syrup. 

 Jonce announces cheerfully, “OK. It’s a beautiful day and I need everybody outside in a half an hour. There’s work to do: bulbs to plant. And the tomatoes have to come out. They’re done. We’ll save the large green ones. Half an hour,” he reinforces. “Everyone ready!” 

I look up quickly to check the teenage reaction to their father’s plan. To my surprise there is none: not even eye rolling. They just go on eating.

 Wait a minute! Aren’t teenagers supposed to rebel against this sort of thing? “Everybody outside to work?” Shouldn’t that elicit at least a few groans? 

I concentrate on scraping up the last of the maple syrup off my plate. Then I remember that last spring when I was visiting the same thing had happened after Sunday breakfast. “Everyone outside!” That time we cleaned the terrace furniture, swept the terrace, and pulled dead leaves away from arising plants. No one baulked then either. My son: the “Pied Piper Coach.”

Soon it's: “Time to go! Everybody outside!” We collect in the mudroom, grabbing light jackets, replacing slippers with shoes and head out. 

Near the wooden gardening shed, Jonce has laid out a mix of tools: shovels, rakes, hole diggers for bulbs and a stack of gardening gloves.  

“Here Mom,” he says, “these should fit you.” He hands me some worn and dirty gloves.

Maggie and I rip out tomato plants in the little back garden, clearing the space for the daffodil bulbs that Jonce has given us. “Be sure to spread them out,” he yells over his shoulder as he departs for the garden in front where Janice is already planting tulips.

We plan where we want to dig the holes. Maggie places the hole digger firmly in the earth and jumps up and down on it. It barely sinks in. Maggie weighs ninety-two pounds. We begin to laugh. 

 “Can you jump any harder?” I challenge her through my laughter. 

“I’ll try!” 

Jonce comes from around the corner. “You try it, Mom.” I hesitate. At my age? Can I jump and land on those narrow spikes that stick out from the side of the metal cylinder? Seeing my hesitation, Jonce urges me on. “You can do it!” 

Of course I can do it. While Maggie steadies the long handle I climb on and jump up and down on the digger “Way to go, Mom!”Jonce shouts. But, in fact, I don’t do any better than my granddaughter.

By now Lock has joined us and he is laughing. Trying to make these holes has become ridiculous. “Let me do it,” Lock says, taking the handle from Maggie’s hand. I quickly step aside. Three jumps and that sucker is driven six inches straight into the ground. We all cheer. Our hero grins and nods his head to the applauding crowd.  

From then on Lock jumps while Maggie and I plant and cover, pushing back all the excavated dirt and smoothing the spot with the mulch and the remaining leaves scattered on the ground. We are a team.

I pat the leaves above the daffodil bulbs’ nests, speaking quietly. “Have a nice cozy winter down there.” I say. “I hope you are warm and safe beneath the snow. Then you can open up and do whatever it is you do to become a daffodil. See you in the spring.” 

My granddaughter is kneeling beside me on the ground and reaches out to pat the earth with me. No bright autumn morning was ever any better than this.


Written by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at LifeOpeningUp.blogspot.com