Back in the fall of 2002, a tar pit decided to burble up in our front yard. This was unusual, but not surprising, given the fact that we live in the vicinity of the L.A. Tar Pits, and various neighbors on the block previously had trouble with tar oozing in through basements, sidewalks, etc. Our very own Stephen King short story! Here's a picture of it, with my albino hand for perspective (it is so very very hard to be an albino in L.A.)
You can’t really do anything when there’s a tar pit in your front yard. You can’t call the city to come pump it out, because, well, it’s tar, and it’s all interconnected with other tar streams, and if you try to pump it out, lightpoles, fire hydrants, and trees will suddenly get sucked into the earth.
So in keeping with our particular sense of humor, we bought a miniature Wooly Mammoth from the George C Page La Brea Tar Pit Museum gift store and stuck it right by the edge. (it’s the thing in the picture that looks like a dog turd.) That’s about as much fun as you can have with a tar pit in your front yard, by the way. Anything else like making a Tar Baby or other Brer Rabbit jokes would have been too messy, and then the turpentine has to come in to clean everything up and it’s a nightmare all over.
So life went on, the tar pit burbled and hissed (it was especially active late at night, and if you happened to be coming home and weren’t prepared, it could really freak you out. “Mrrrrrrrrrr. Sssssssss. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN TONIGHT YOUNG LADY! Pop pop POP!”) and we waited for it to grow bigger and swallow the house like a primordial sinkhole.
But instead, it decided to retreat. Just sorta crusted over. It took the miniature Wooly Mammoth with it, too. Millions of years from now, they will do an excavation and determine that earth was populated by very small pieces of plastic with tusks.
We didn’t trust it at first, thinking that it must be a thin layer of earth, and the tar would break through it if we stepped on it. But it remained solid, no more tar for another year.
Enter my Mom, the 4’11 dynamo phone harpy, who I love very very much. My Mom loves me very very much too, and she shows it by nagging me every weekly phone conversation to do this, that or the other. I thought that one of the bonuses of moving out of the house when I went to college was that I would escape the Loving Harpfulness. But no. if there’s a phone or email, mutual friend, or homing pigeon around, my Mother will find a way to tell me over and over that I should do this, that, or the other. She’s awesome, she really is.
When I mentioned that the tar pit had retreated, leaving a solid mucky bare spot in our front yard where nothing would grow, Mom immediately decided that I should go buy some roses and planters, and put them over the bare spot. Yes, yes, this is exactly what Amy should do. Yes, yes, she should do it. Yes, yes, Amy, please do this. Yes, yes, Amy, why haven’t you done it? Yes, yes, Amy, have you done it yet? Yes, yes, Amy, have you done it YET? Yes, yes, Amy, you NEED TO DO THIS.
Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Okay, okay, okay, I’ll do it! JUST STOP WITH THE HARPING!
I went to Target, (where everyone gets their gardening needs, right?) and bought two red rose plants, and three yellow rose plants for the back. Bought the soil, the plant food, the spray stuff to keep white stuff and bugs off of them. Read the directions, planted the roses in the planters, fed them the food, threw buckets and buckets and buckets of water on them, and three years later, I have these beautiful things. That's not tar they're standing in, that's how much I water them. I do not scrimp when it comes to water and my roses.
Mom was right. About the roses, about nagging me to get the roses, about all of it. Which means I must mention that SHE’S A SHORTY! SHE’S SUPER SHORT, PEOPLE! I WAS TALLER THAN HER WHEN I WAS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL! SHE NEEDS TWO SEAT CUSHIONS TO SEE OVER THE STEERING WHEEL IN THE CAR!
Ha ha ha ha.
I love my Mom. These pictures and this Enforced Secret Joy post are for her. I especially like this one, because it’s got bruises. I don’t know if that’s the official term for the dark spots, but where some Flower Purists may think that makes them damaged, I dig ‘em. Gives the flower character, I think. Beauty with Bruises.
The roses are a joy. Thank you God, for the roses, for bruised beauty, for the color red, and the color green. Thank you God, for this house, this front yard, and the receeding tar. Thank you God, for the hysterical joke that buried in the front yard is a plastic miniature Wooly Mammoth. Thank you for my Mom, for her adorable smallness, for her brilliant gardening ideas, for her phone harpy ways that result in secret joys. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.