Editorial: Parent adventure — wild chamomile

by Andru McCracken, Editor


My neighbour and his fiancee are having a baby. He’s an awesome guy and already seems to do a  great job with her children from a previous marriage, but I can’t help myself. Like so many unhelpful people, I provide unsolicited advice.

I realize it wasn’t for his benefit but my own. Just a little mid-parenthood debrief I suppose. I love sharing with other parents how ridiculous and impossible our journeys can be, from an 18-hour emergency room crisis, where your partner and somebody you haven’t met are being born and close to death at the same time. The consecutive all-nighters and subsequent sleep deprivation shenanigans, waking at 3 am and realizing that sleep won’t come tomorrow either.

Because no one asks for advice, especially dads, I have to trick him into hearing my questionable wisdom (it’s all crafted in a sleep deprived haze).

We greet each other from our driveways, and as he walks over I point to the wild chamomile coming up on the edges of the driveway next to the pavement.

I tell him about it, channeling the Star Wars character Yoda, but without the reverse grammar.

“This is chamomile,” I say. “It makes the most relaxing tea.”

“Really?” he responds, unwittingly taking the bait.

“It only grows in soil that is constantly run over by traffic,” I intone softly.

He surveys the patch next to the road and we look at how the chamomile grows in a small field where he and I regularly park our vehicles, with trailers and boats and such in tow.

“It won’t grow without traffic,” I add.

And we look up my nasty patchy yard where most people would have a lawn, and agree. If there’s no traffic, it doesn’t grow.

“This is fatherhood,” I said.

We’re both quiet for a second; his silence may be because he wonders what the hell I am talking about.

I discovered a unique property of chamomile when a wild harvesting friend told me it could make tea.

I don’t drink a lot of tea, but there is something about chamomile tea that is utterly relaxing, as if diffusing tension from the inside. I thought it was harvested from an alpine meadow on the quietest night under a full moon. When I went to harvest it for myself for the first time, I wasn’t able to find any plants that weren’t covered in road dust and constantly being crushed by car tires.

The reality is chamomile requires traffic. Constant, punishing traffic.

Like parents. Like dads.

I don’t know how they grow it commercially but if it’s the same plant, they must have room for a steam roller over the garden beds.

When people talk of birth and death, I used to think they were just rhyming off opposites. They are not opposites I have found. They are listed together because they are both kinds of change that last for forever, with deep consequences for all around. Birth and death change the world around them, crushing, compacting and allowing growth.

Good, it is.

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