In the spring Muriel liked to go down to the community gardens and help coax things back to life. She would dig out old husks of plants, sometimes mix new potting soil into the old depleted planters, bury seeds, and a dozen other such tasks. The work relaxed her, took her mind off of a career that instead of leveling out seemed to have gotten busier and busier as the years progressed So to compensate she came to the gardens more and more, nearly every evening instead of just on the weekends as she had at first. There was a little shed and she would change out of her business clothes there. At first it had been a little awkward, but now it was almost a running joke between her and some of the other regular gardeners. She would enter the shed in a drab skirt or slacks and then emerge a few minutes later like a butterfly from a cocoon, wearing boots, overalls, and a T-shirt. As she emerged she would grin mischievously at one of the other gardeners and then they would both laugh. The gardens were a wonderful thing. Anyone in the city was welcome to come and take vegetables if they needed them. And of course anyone was welcome to come work in the gardens as well. At one point Muriel’s boyfriend asked her to move in with him. She very much wanted to, but then the gardens wouldn’t be on her way home from work. So she had delayed, told him she wasn’t quite ready. She had never told him about the gardens. They just felt like a secret part of her life that needed to protected, kept to herself. At one point she realized that she had been coming to the gardens for over five years. The fact amazed her. It hadn’t felt like any time at all, though now she did know almost everyone who frequented the gardens. She had a different boyfriend now, and she had been able to tell him about them. Sometimes he even came and joined her there, though he wasn’t much of a green thumb. That was alright; she would train him up. They had time.
Eventually she married this man, Jeremy. Some of her work friends had been there and most of her family. But a large portion of the wedding party was people from the garden that knew both her and Jeremy. A couple years went by and she had a baby girl, who she named Stella. As soon as she was able, Muriel was back in the garden, this time with Stella in a harness or a mobile crib. The other gardeners didn’t mind too much when Stella shrieked and cried as babies do; they knew and loved her parents, and grew to know and love her as well. Eventually Muriel went back to work. Many evenings she still met Jeremy and Stella in the gardens.
Years passed. Soon Stella was helping out in the community gardens. Like her parents she knew most of the people that came there. They were frequently her baby-sitters as well. Muriel was offered a promotion, but it required relocating to another city. She turned it down. She was happy as things were. Time continued to pass. Stella continued to grow. One year a development firm wanted to buy the plot of land where the gardens lived from the city and turn it into luxury apartments. Muriel, Jeremy, little Stella, and many others organized a campaign and were able to save the community gardens. More time passed. Stella was a teenager now. She was busy with school and socializing, but she still made time for the gardens where she had effectively been raised as well. Now they wanted to build a highway right through the gardens, and another campaign was organized. This one succeeded as well, but it was a close thing.
Eventually Stella was ready to go off to college. For Muriel and Jeremy it was a day of mixed feelings: Joy, sadness, pride, and worry. Muriel was excited for the future, but nostalgic for the past. Luckily Stella came back to town whenever she got the chance, then the three of them would spend hours in the garden just like usual.