When I came home the other day, I was greeted at my front door by a collection of small, brown, curled up crunchy things.

My small portico creates a recessed entryway, which actually just translates to “leaf catcher”. An unusual wind showed up the other day: suuuuper blustery. All the leaves and debris in my neighborhood, probably even the entire city, ended up on my front porch, blanketing my front door mat.

Making my way through the front door, I immediately hear, “Mama, I’m hungry!”

Raising my daughter is a lot like growing my front yard. Even though I live with them both, birthed them both, and even though I’ve cultivated them both, I’m never sure what to expect. Right when I think the heavy cloud of gray gloom is never going to go away, a bright, perfectly red tulip appears suddenly in the most unlikely of places; “Mama, come watch a movie with me”. A glimpse of purple breaks through the crusty mortared crevices of my low, rock wall. “Mama, come and listen to this song I just downloaded”.

My daughter is 14, which as you know, means never knowing whether I’m “in” or “out”. Today. Lately, I’m in. I know this, because even during the stark, frozen days of winter, the herbaceous aroma of my yellow-striped sage and dulled Rosemary plant – the structure, the foundation, the bones of my garden, can be summoned and relied upon. All one has to do is pluck a leaf and caress it, massage it a little, for its essence to come alive. The same for my daughter: when she has a bead attitude and distances herself, I give her space, and lots of it. Then, I pluck a leaf (I make marshmallow treats out of the blue, show her a really funny YouTube video, or walk into her room with a ridiculous outfit on) to bring out her naturally bright and cheerful disposition, which to my delight, will then linger for hours.

My daughter and my garden require the same maintenance tools:

Gardening gloves – in the garden, these are handy for protecting my hands from getting torn up or dirt under my fingernails. With my daughter, they are invaluable for extracting unrecognizable items from her lunch bag, as well as protecting me from any thorns she might get tossed in my direction when I least suspect it.

Hedge clippers – I have LOTS of crammed in bushy plants in my big front planter which takes up my entire yard. I never really can quite keep up with shearing the masses. My daughter has about 4 times the amount of curl and frizz that I have. She’s a skinny girl with big hair. She used to look like some white mini-version of Diana Ross. It is no small feat to trim her hair so I get out the loppers.

Leaf blower – In about 60 seconds, I can take my cobbled front porch from looking like trailer-trash Hicksville to a pleasurable, well-groomed newspaper-reading haven surrounded by trailing lemon chiffon roses, golden California poppies, and goldenrod daylilies; a place where even my cats will sun-worship all day long.

I’m not sure I have the same outcome when it comes to my daughter’s stuff, but she knows that if SHE doesn’t clean it up, I’m going after it with the big gun.

My daughter’s name is Myan, (sounds like Ryan), and it means, “Water from the spring”. She was home all of last week with the flu. As much as I hated seeing her sick, I can’t help but feel the much-yearned-for-comfort-of being, not only needed, but wanted, when I heard her cry out: “Mama, come lay down in bed with me”.

What a sweet, refreshing message, just like the dewy mist on the ferns in my window boxes.