I busy myself in the garden whilst spouse supervises inside. It may be only February but Spring has sprung. Tender shoots have shot. I pause to admire a ladybird. Oh the delight of living in California! Then I step on a snail. Tender shoots and gastropods at the same time. I drop the secateurs and dash inside to execute plan B.
Spouse has plans for two children, so I am left with the short straw. I explain the situation to junior, but he is not impressed with his options; “not dah garden center,” he wails as he runs away at the speed of light. I do not punish merely torture him with this trip. It's not deliberate but necessary, before the slugs and snails consume all green matter that emerges in the garden.
I make sure that he is appropriately attired for such an expedition; shoes not sandals, long trousers, long sleeved jacket, hat and gloves to ensure minimal skin exposure. I throw the umbrella in the car for good measure, as they have hoses in the garden centre and he mistakenly believes that an umbrella will ward off the evils of wetness.
We set off to the garden of Eden which holds more therapeutic power for me than any spa. Junior does not share this view. For him, there are so many things wrong with the garden center that it would be hard to list them all. The potential for becoming dirty or wet is high on the list objections. Because it is outside, there is also the chance that a breeze may ruffle his hair. Plants and soil may smell disagreeable. Flowers, not that there will be many at this time of year, may have perfume. Even if the fragrance is pleasant for most people, for him it is often too powerful.
The ground is uneven with channels to remove excess water, so that little rivers criss cross the pathways. The shelves drip. The hoses and taps drip. There can be beeping fork lift trucks moving palettes around. They move in unpredictable directions. They jerk and spout plumes of black sooty smoke.
I determine to make the exercise as swift and painless as possible.
I stand at the check out queue clutching a sack of slug pellets under one arm, my other hand securely grasps junior’s, as he jitters and skitters in a two foot radius. All of a sudden he stops. A gasp of true awe matches his eyes out on stalks. He cannot talk, but he does point. I look but I do not see. His hands cover his mouth as he tried to contain his excitement. I look again but I cannot see whatever it is that has transformed the torture trip into a treat. A little rain dance of joy starts in his tippy tapping toes and then convulses up his body. He's off at a gallop. I drop the sack and run after him but he stops just as abruptly so that I nearly fall flat on my face. Before him is a big golden coloured ball, a garden decoration I believe.
He admires his warped reflection and grins from ear to ear, “it is dah golden one!” he whispers. I peek at the bottom to find the price and gasp myself. I am about to splutter about the value of a dollar to my six year old as I watch him squeeze his eyes shut, cover them with his hands and then explode in delight again. I put the ball under my arm and return to the check out and the sack of slug pellets.
The ball is strapped into the spare toddler seat next to him. He lays a palm on the smooth surface to keep it safe on the journey home. He spends the seven minute drive giggling and sighing with adoration. I spend the same seven minutes trying to work out how too explain how a bag of slug pellets could be so expensive to my better half?
I wonder if I could sell him on the idea of it being a lure to get junior to go outside, therapy, but not retail?