How We Parent Thousands of Children: Seedbed

She’s laid bare, exposed and waiting.

We, all of us, watch as he stands on her tilled edge, opening bags, preparing to fill soil’s barrenness. Something about the sound of ripping out stitched string, hope and promised unsealed.

The open seed bags line the tailgate, ready.

The truck bed sags under the heaviness of seeds, millions of diminutive, near-weightless-in-my-hand seeds. Across the field, edging toward us, the tractor with planter behind, seems to enlarge, grow up out of the dirt. Engine drones louder, closer. That horsepower’s filling earth’s emptiness with seeds, 16 rows drilling 29,500 embryos of life into every acre of naked ground.

Farmer Husband kneels down into land already planted. Like a prayer, he scrapes back the surface, searches.

Found one.” The wind carries his voice to us sitting in the ditch’s grass. “We’ve got the depth, the spacing. Looks good!” His grease-creased hands move slowly, carefully, folding the seed back into its dark earth slumber.

Granules, sediment, is all she looks like. Dirt. Kick a foot at her, and she flies away, a cloud of dust. But beneath her, still and hidden, lies millions of seeds about to awaken, stir, burgeon, swell with life.

Farmer Husband’s brother backs up tractor and this planter empty of seed. Time to refill. These brothers, bloodlines from a land across the Atlantic Ocean, heft seed bags and pour into planter hoppers.

Little Girl stands beside me watching her daddy work, her cheeks full of apple, her hair riding wind.

She’s standing on dirt I stood on as a little girl, watching my own Daddy pour seed to fill this farm with.

Seeds and dirt. Isn’t that what we are, really?

Seeds planted deep into loam, growing, living, dying, dust returning to dust, new seeds planted.

Seeds as many as the stars in the sky.

I reach down and touch her silken hair, touch all the children within her to come, and think of Abraham and Levi before Levi even yet was… and yet he was:

Because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor,” reads Hebrews 7:10.

The New Living Translation offers,“For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body…”

Inside the frames, the bodies, the souls of our children, reside the children still to come. And the children then still to come.

Like nestled dolls, future generations dwell within the child whose eyes I now look into, whose hands I now touch.

Every day we parent not one child, or even a few children, but every day we parent innumerable, countless children. When I raise my voice, frustrated with a child, I speak to generations of children. When I wipe away a tear, comfort, listen, I honor centuries of children.

When we meet our children, children we will not live to meet on this earth, are, in very real ways, met, shaped, formed. Parented.

Seeds in the earth, stars in the sky.

She bites again into white apple flesh, looks up with smiling eyes.

Face of clay, she is. Made of the dust of the ground. But, oh, the seeds within.

The planter drops back down into seedbed, heads across earth, and I take her hand and whisper a prayer:

God, give grace to tend this seedbed well.

(Post from the 2008 archives)