Faking Farming

When you're older, you wish that you'd paid more attention to people doing useful things when you were younger. My grandma grew vegetables so giant-like that neighbors brought their guests and friends over to visit and exclaim. They'd go on for hours, oohing and aahing as if she'd done something magical.

If I liked vegetables, this might have been interesting but vegetables to me were the same as bugs. Therefore, the people who talked on and on about them must be slightly simpleminded, like people to talked about the price of gas, or taxes. When you're a kid, who cares?

The only way I'd pay attention to something growing is if that something was candy. Chocolate, especially. I'd bring my friends over, maybe, although that would mean exposing them to my relatives who, for no reason I could figure, let out exclamations like, "Heavens to Betsy!" and "Jumping Jehosaphat!"

There were people in college who spent hours growing marijuana, but they were always high. Nobody listened to them.

Now I'm old. When I'm out with my mom in her garden, I listen to every word but I don't know what she's saying. What does "hardening" mean? "Bolting?" She says "deadhead" and I visualize Jerry Garcia.

When you're around someone talking too technically, maybe you do what I do: pretend. It's how I survived working at Fujitsu, spending all day sitting at big tables in hot meetings with super-polite Japanese men who couldn't speak English. I already faked that I knew all about chip manufacture to get that job, so I got paid to both impersonate a flash-memory expert and to pretend to understand Japanglish.

You have to use the words right, though, if you're going to be a good actor. You listen to figure out if they're talking about something good or bad, big or little, noun or verb. You repeat how they use it in a sentence. You wonder how many other people at the table are also full of shit. You keep faking it and you stop worrying that you'll get caught when they want you to train the new people. Use the words in correct way long enough and you fool even yourself.

Before we leave my mom's garden, she hands me a bag full of seeds. "Soak them in water for a day," she says, like I know why you'd want to do that. She says a lot of other things, but she talks to fast and so technical that I'm back at a Fujitsu meeting. I'm into nod and smile mode.

At home, instead of doing actual research, I leave glasses of water all around my kitchen with tiny seeds floating in them. Charlie doesn't ask. He didn't have a farming grandma, so he can't even begin to fake what I'm doing when it comes to gardening. I don't even know if he saw the seeds in the water. For all I know, he might have thought I had a new technique to drink enough water.

Stella and I planted them in old six-packs that Charlie filled with dirt. I figured I'd give them a week, throw them away and go to the nursery and buy seedlings.

Two days later, green sprouts appeared in some of the sections. Stella watched them every day, probably as amazed as me. Luckily, my mom called or those plants would still be in my kitchen. "They're ready for hardening," she said. "That's what you call it when you put them outside to acclimate."

That's where they are right now, awaiting a call from my mom to tell me what to do next. She knows what kind of actor I am.