Giving time

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HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer thinks he knows the perfect gift for anyone’s list.

(HOMEYER) As we approach the darkest day of the year, my spirits can easily tumble. I hate the short days of winter, the gray skies, the drab landscape. I’m a gardening guy, but there really isn’t much to do in the garden. Perhaps, like the bears, I should hibernate – but that isn’t in my nature.

Although I’m not a shopper, and don’t like to visit the malls, I can understand why people get into shopping at this time of year. There’s a pleasant sense of anticipation if you’ve found the perfect present for Aunt Hilda. You just can’t wait to see her face when she opens the set of porcelain figurines in the shape of Bavarian barrel jumpers – just what she always needed. Or is it? Our material culture puts an awfully high value on “stuff.” Perhaps we should think about alternatives.

This year, I’m going to give time. That’s right, my time, helping the people I care about. It doesn’t wrap well, and it’s not showy, but it’s always appreciated. For my 90-year old mom, little is more precious than time with me – either in person, or on the phone. We talk once a week, but I resolve to make the trek to Connecticut more often this year. After all, you can’t give a hug over the phone, and I guess I’m the only person in the world who still gives her hugs.

For my friend Bernie Johnson of Cornish Flat, I promise to come and pull all your wild parsnips. It’s a dreadful weed with a deep tap root, and you’re allergic to it. I’ve done this before, but I’ve been known to just weed and run. It’s important to spend time together, so I will do better. I’ll sit down on your porch and talk. I’ll give you more time.

I’ve been friends with Barbara Barnes of Norwich since 1967, nearly 40 years. She was the first adult to treat me as an equal, back when I was just a college kid. We get together for lunch from time to time, or to let our dogs play, but I plead guilty. I’ve meant to visit once a month, but I haven’t. I really will visit you once a month in 2007. I’ll weed. I’ll putter in your great gardens. I’d like to help you in your garden, and to spend more time with you.

And so the list goes on. I have lots of gardening friends. I’ll dig up some of my primroses that spread by root and share them. Yes, a vigorous primrose is nice, but it’s even better to get some face-to-face time with friends. And you know what else I’ll give? Another present that I can’t wrap? I’ll tell my friends how much they mean to me. That’s worth something, too.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist. His new book is titled, “The New Hampshire Gardner’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Gardening in the Granite State.”

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