Blood, Phlegm & Bile:
Parenting with Humor

December
The Beer Garden: Grow your own!


This past September, as I do every September, I attended my town's Oktoberfest. This fun celebration of autumn and beer, held on two weekends in September each year, is an annual ritual heralding the arrival of fall. To me, nothing says "September" like Oktoberfest.

Look, if you're going to get all hung up on the fact that Oktoberfest happens in September, then you're doing too much thinking and not enough drinking, my friend.

(Disclaimer: That was a joke. Please drink responsibly. And please think in moderation.)

Not that I wasn't thinking that night. As a matter of fact, the creative juices were flowing freely, and I had a brilliant insight when I glanced up at a sign:

"Bier Garten" it said.

I don't speak German, but using my general knowledge of linguistics, I was able to deduce the meaning of this exotic phrase. That's when the great idea struck me. As an avid gardener, I had heard of people growing salsa gardens and lasagna gardens and even pizza gardens. Next season, I announced silently yet triumphantly to myself, I will grow a beer garden.

Great gardening brainstorms like this often occur in the autumn. In the spring and summer, gardeners are too busy planting and tending the garden to think about the big picture. So we really enjoy the period of quiet contemplation that comes after the harvest. Seeds may germinate in the spring, but truly original and ingenious ideas--like the beer garden--tend to take root in the fall.

My mind raced forward to next summer, and I pictured the scene like this:

Late one sunny afternoon, I come in after a long day of working in the garden. My wife greets me with a kiss and a glass of ice-cold lemonade. We retire to the patio to enjoy the sunset and some good conversation as our children play in a backyard bathed in warm golden light. It's a moment of perfect domestic bliss.

Wife (resting her head softly on my shoulder and gazing out toward the western horizon): What have you been up to all this time?

Me: Oh, just doing a little gardening.

Wife: You know, I think it's just wonderful that you devote so much of your free time to gardening.

Me: Really? Thanks!

Wife: You are such a dedicated husband and father to work so hard growing healthy vegetables for our family.

Me: Aw, it's nice of you to say so.

Wife: So many guys spend their weekends out on the golf course or doing things with their buddies, and here you are, right in the backyard, spending quality time with the kids and providing us with fresh, nutritious food. I'm so lucky.

Me: Oh, there's noplace I'd rather be. It's my pleasure.

Wife: What exactly are you growing in the garden, anyway?

Me (absentmindedly thumbing through the newspaper, pretending not to hear).

Wife: Hon?

Me: Hmm?

Wife: I say, what are you growing out there?

Me: Oh, you know. The usual. Is there any more lemonade?

Wife: Like what?

Me: Isn't the sunset glorious tonight?

Wife: Tomatoes? Corn? Help me out here.

Me: Well, not those particular plants. But, you know, things that grow on stalks and vines. Have you seen the sports section?

Wife: Why do you keep changing the subject? I'm just interested in the delicious vegetables we'll be enjoying this summer. What stalks and vines?

Me: I don't see why you're getting so defensive. If you must know, I'm growing some grains. Grains are very healthy, you know.

Wife: Grains? What kind of grains?

Me: Barley, for one.

Wife: I've never heard of growing barley in a home garden. But I suppose I could make that vegetable barley soup you like.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Wife: What else? You mentioned vines. Pumpkins? Watermelon?

Me: No, not exactly. More like, you know, hops and stuff.

Wife: Hops?

Me: Yeah.

Wife: OK, what the hell's going on here?

Me: What do you mean?

Wife: Why are you spending hours a day tending a crop of barley and hops instead of things we can eat?

Me: It's a beer garden.

(Sound of screen door slamming.)

Me (following her into the house): Honey? Just listen. It's really a great idea. See, we'll save a lot of money by brewing our own fresh...

(Sound of bathroom door slamming.)

Me (talking sweetly through the door): Sweetie?

Wife: What.

Me: Please don't scrape off that fungus growing on the shower curtain.

Wife: Why not?

Me: It's my yeast.

© 2011 John Hershey

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. - Peter Ustinov

John Hershey is a dad, a writer, and a lawyer (in that order). He writes a syndicated biweekly humor column about parenting and family life.. His columns have been published or accepted for publication on websites and in magazines around the world, from Maine to Oregon, Colorado down to Texas, and down under in Australia.

Blood, Phlegm & Bile: Parenting with Humor appears monthly on menstuff.org. But, why the gross title? Well, for one thing these are three substances with which every parent becomes quite familiar. They were also called the "humors" by medieval scientists who believed that the proportion of these bodily fluids determined a person's health and temperament. So it's a pun! A pun requiring a lengthy explanation, but a pun nonetheless. E-Mail



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