We Wait, Watch, and Hope

By Janey Womeldorf

We Wait, Watch, and Hope

If they build it, they will come, and we will lose our garden.

Eight years ago, my husband and I chose to simplify our lives. We owned a three-bedroom, two-bath, 2400 square-foot house and maintaining it had become exhausting. When you own an aging home, there is always something – a leaky faucet, a dryer not drying, roof shingles damaged by the recent storm. The ongoing time, energy and money required to investigate each problem, shop for a solution, fix the issue, or call in a repairman was sucking the fun right out of us. We wanted our weekends back, and something had to change.

One year later, we sold our house along with all that stuff and clutter that had bulged from its cabinets and closets. With lighter shoulders, less stress and less baggage in every sense of the word, we happily joined the league of renters. A two-bedroom apartment in a rental complex with a gym, pool and on-site maintenance took the place of our mortgage and backyard.

One morning, I awoke to find water all over the kitchen floor. I had no idea if it was leaking from the fridge or the dishwasher and immediately called the office in panic. Within 30 minutes, a friendly maintenance man knocked at my door and within 45 minutes, the problem was fixed. It was so easy I could have cried. No flipping through the Yellow Pages; no waiting in all day for someone to show up and, ecstatically, no earth-shattering bill. As we say in England, I was “gobsmacked” (a.k.a. speechless.). We needed no more convincing and have rented ever since.

People think the biggest downside about apartment living is noisy neighbors. I disagree; no home – rented or owned – comes with a 100% guarantee of respectful, quiet neighbors. Admittedly, we consciously chose to live in an apartment with nobody above us but noisy neighbors are a gamble wherever you live. The biggest downside to me is no garden. Nothing beats having Mother Nature at your back door, relaxing in your own garden, or being able to grow your own produce.

In our last house, I turned one corner of our back yard into a long-wished-for vegetable patch. With novice enthusiasm, new gardening gloves, a plastic ruler and five varieties of lettuce seeds, I headed out one morning, packets in hand. I spent the next few hours methodically measuring and spacing my seeds six inches apart in neatly lined rows. As I stood up to admire my handiwork, I tripped and instinctively threw my arms up in the air sending hundreds of the remaining lettuce seeds flying everywhere. A disbelieving shriek of “I can’t believe that!” was heard around the world followed by the sound of my own laughter.

One month later, a cacophony of green budded from my garden. Two months later, an unexpected freeze hit; three months later, the bugs arrived, and four months later, I picked the wilting survivors. After sorting and washing their delicate leaves, I tossed what was salvageable into a large bowl. Two hours and one dinner later, my first attempt at gardening was gone – I had eaten the entire lot in one sitting. Undeterred, I attempted a herb garden the following year with similar success before resolving to stick with the only plant I knew I could grow – basil. I am a self-confessed “pastaholic” and no self-respecting pasta dish is complete without fresh basil. My (basil) garden thrived which meant so did I.

Nowadays, my garden is a balcony on the fourth floor. I miss not being able to walk out into our own plot of nature but thankfully, two saving graces have made not having a garden do-able.

Saving grace number one: My balcony offers a sunny but protected spot, and I can still grow basil – albeit in a pot.

Saving grace number two: The view. Look left and the lights of a popular tourist area and theme park dazzle the eye. The first night we stepped out, we screamed when we realized we could see the park’s nightly fireworks show from our balcony. To the right stands an attractive-to-the-eye, immaculately-landscaped, beautiful hotel complex. The grand prize and saving grace, however, is the view directly ahead: Unspoiled, undeveloped fields stretch as far as the eye can see; it is Mother Nature at her finest. Cows stroll and graze the pastures, trees line the horizon, and nothing nurtures, relaxes or calms like it. It is my garden.

I fear my garden’s days are numbered.

Two months ago, I noticed tractors mowing the fields. In the beginning, this activity made for interesting watching and humorous “missed-a-spot” commentary from our lofty vantage point. Over the course of the next month, the tractors expanded their mow, turning what once was a natural area of grass and shrubbery into a neatly-plowed expanse of green. Two weeks ago, we strolled onto our balcony for our evening calm and fireworks show and were crushed to witness newly-erected, black-sheet fencing partitioning the fields. This, my husband explained, is to prevent the grass and dirt from drifting into the roads once they start digging – a sure sign that someone plans to build.

Survey crews are active and the tractor’s canvasses of green are spreading. Worse than the fact that construction is imminent; is that we have no idea what. Its unknown fate is making us nervous. (Watch this essay’s comments on the Sasee website for the future outcome.) I’m hoping for an 18-hole, lake-dotted, beautifully-manicured golf course; I probably have more chance of winning the lottery. The reality is my husband and I live in a growing area which means there is an ongoing demand for more houses and apartments. If they build it, they will come, and I will lose my garden. I fear unwanted grey will replace my cherished green, and I will be crushed. All we can do is wait, watch, eat pasta, and hope.

At least I still have my balcony – and my basil.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “We Wait, Watch, and Hope”

  1. Janey W. says:

    After months of digging, the plot is revealed…. Our view will become a new apartment complex. And I was so hoping for a beautifully-manicured golf course. I’ve never had a golf course view. Oh well. I’ll commiserate over pasta tonight–pasta makes everything better–especially with fresh basil from my balcony a.k.a garden. Thank goodness there are some constants in life.

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