This is a brief sound of a community garden that I briefly worked at in New Orleans.
“We dared each other!” proclaims Bri, grade four.
The garden was next to our house in the 7th ward, ushering copious quantities of okra, kale, mint, bananas, and mirlitons into the universe. It was so full and jungle-y that you could barely tell it was a garden because of it’s garden-ness.
The kids were eating hot peppers that we were growing in the garden, because as a kid, you have no choice in the matter when you are near a hot pepper, or anything that allows you to prove your proximity to what you perceive as adulthood. Their showboating is instinctual.
Most days in the garden followed this theme, somewhat. Despite grand delusions of gardening and learning about compost in harmony with eager young faces, most days were an exercise in gentle arm-twisting. More serious arm-twisting of children is generally frowned upon.
“Oh, you don’t want to learn about brassicas? You might…IF YOU WERE A ROBOT!” I would say, arms going stiff, and voice going more monotone than normal. These, and other similar ploys were among my go-to tactics.
Getting any of the 7 year olds to express interest in worms was a huge victory. Getting through a two-hour session where I was able to successfully keep the machete out of the kids’ hands was a major victory.
You can hear my quite forced enthusiasm at the very end in my attempts to get two of the kids to help clean up. Anyone who has spent time trying to convince children to clean up anything understand what a fruitless enterprise is. As we all know, cleaning up is boring.
The timbre in my voice mostly reflects my feelings of that work. I should have liked it, because it was in line with all of my beliefs, it was aimed at doing good with the community, and I love kids. But what you hear is that ultimately, I was not stoked at my core, likely because all I really want to do with kids is play freeze-tag and doodle, and I overly sympathize with their desire NOT to learn.
My suggestions that we stop teaching gardening and start hanging out playing on a slip-n-slide and playing videogames were not well-received.