There is magenta bee balm swaying and swelling applets on the bowing branches and anise hyssop purpling proud feathers alongside the fence—because there is a waist-high chain-link fence designating the parameters of our purchase in this patch of suburbia. I was thirty-weeks-round with my first daughter when we toured this house, spring-breaking from Michigan on a real-estate-blitz, trying to buy our way back into the land we had loved and left. I wanted my daughter irrevocably born on Nebraskan soil, growing taproots like switchgrass, securing her. On our first round homesteading in Omaha, we had hipstered in tall, bricked city duplexes, but our agent sold us on this suburban house, calling it a “mother’s delight” because it was catty-corner from a small park. We declared that we would live in the suburbs, but we didn’t have to live like suburbanites.
For almost twenty years, our predecessors had planted next-to-nothing on the sunbaked stretches of Kentucky bluegrass comprising our lawn—though there was tract-house yew hedging along the foundation, an ash tree in the backyard so negligible I had missed it in the inspection—so we began to take it over, clovering the front yard as our bewildered neighbor pesticided a border line demarcating his and ours.
Over the last eight years, we have planted the placentas of our three daughters with the nectarine tree, the peaches, the elderberries. We ripped out the yew and sowed clusters of local-prairie-grown echinacea pallida I learned to harvest, inoculating my children against their inevitable illnesses. The once-impeccable green lawn has become mottled with weeds we do not remove, creeping Charlie and red clover and false strawberry, and bricks arc around the tomato patch, the tulip patch, countersunk against conformity. We should be in the city, but we chose to love this city instead.
The trees we planted are slowly stretching out their green arms—one day they will obscure the beige of our neighbor’s house, the concrete cul-de-sac. My girls walk barefoot over the dandelions, imprinting on the land. I live on a cultivated scrap of freedom; a suburban prairie.