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God Helps My Garden Grow

Nothing could grow in our shaded, cement-covered backyard, until we decided to nurture the space—and have a little faith.

By Peggy Frezon, Rensselaer, New York

As appeared in

Oh, how I hated our backyard. No, that's too weak a word. I loathed that yard.

When my husband, Mike, and I first saw this house one winter years earlier, we were charmed. There was antique wallpaper in every room, natural wood molding, even an old-fashioned pantry just off the kitchen.

But the yard was…so small. No room for a swing set or monkey bars for our kids, Kate and Andy, when they got older. No room for our Lab, Hudson, to play. Can't have everything, I thought, staring at the snow-covered ground.

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Anyway, we loved the house. We'd live in there, not the yard, right? So we decided to go ahead and buy it.

The first warm day after we'd moved in, the kids wanted to go out to play. Winters in upstate New York bring along lots of cabin fever. I wanted to get out and get some fresh air too.

We put on jackets and headed out back. What the…? The snow had melted, leaving one lonely little patch of muddy ground smack in the middle of a sea of asphalt. Who in their right minds would pave over their yard?

"Let's go to the park instead," I told Kate and Andy.

Mike thought the yard got too much shade for grass to grow. Granted, it was lined with tall trees, and the garage blocked out the sunlight too. "Well, I don't care. We'll try it anyway," I announced. I seeded that pathetic patch of earth.

The grass never really took, no more than a few scraggly tufts. It looked like the head of a middle-aged man who didn't even have enough hair for a comb-over.

I tried praying about it, but gave up after a while. What's the point? I thought. God had bigger fish to fry. Besides, what did I expect? He wasn't going to change the earth's orbit just so my crummy yard could get more sunlight. If he didn't care, I wouldn't either, I decided.

I began avoiding the backyard as much as possible. The only time I'd set foot in it was to hang laundry out to dry. The kids played in the park. Our Lab got his exercise on long walks. And in the summer, we picnicked at the kitchen table.

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It took me about a minute to rake the leaves that first fall. Kate and Andy took turns jumping into the pile. More of a bump than a pile, really. The kids didn't know what they were missing. A real backyard had swings, a fort, maybe even a swimming pool. Instead, ours was like a dirty parking lot with a clothesline.

It wasn't even much good for that. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I had to wash something all over again because it had blown off the line and landed in the dirt. But seeing a white towel crumpled in the far corner of the yard one spring day was the last straw.

Figures! I thought, seething while I tromped along the asphalt. I am sick and tired of this. I can't even have nice laundry thanks to this poor excuse for a yard!

I reached down to get the towel. Something underneath it caught my eye. A tiny purple flower poked up through a crack in the pavement. I bent down for a closer look. It had a bell-shaped blossom, petals that ruffled like a fancy skirt and a faint hint of lovely fragrance.

You sure picked the wrong place to bloom, I thought. Won't be long till you're dead and gone.

I turned around and stomped back to the house. But before I went inside, something stopped me. The loathing I felt for our yard faded, just a little bit. The flower had managed to grow without room and without sunlight. A tiny bit of beauty had sprung up from such ugliness. What else might be able to grow here?