A Tale of Two Gardens
My garden is related to archeology. It is a raised garden, a layer above an older much better garden, my father's garden. His garden was a scaled down version of the farm that he loved and coaxed and sweated over, until life gave him no choice but to abandon it. When at last the tide of change swept on, it left my father with a space that was small by his standards but enormous by those of his new city neighbors, and he began to craft his garden. By the time he left this world of the living, his garden was famous. But like other fame, it disappeared in one season, evaporating with my father. It became another memory covered by grass.
This year I moved back to my home town to care for my mother. I thought it would be nice to have a couple of tomato plants, maybe a summer squash and a pumpkin vine. My "thought" rapidly turned into a "family and friends" project, out of my control. Everyone had ideas of what should be planted and the list grew and grew! And so did the garden space. Not just once did a dump truck arrive with topsoil but twice. Up, up went the garden, lifted by railroad ties brought by a friends' son. Two tomato plants turned into eighteen, they were surrounded by garlic and various pepper varieties. Summer squash was kept company with winter squash and giant pumpkin vines began reaching their great arms out into the world. It wasn't enough. Giant sunflowers, moon flowers and morning glories found a place with pole beans and new rose bushes. Green onions hung onto their patch of ground and all had to be fenced in to keep the roving bands of hungry bunnies at bay.
As the days turned violently hot under the Kansas sun, I spent early morning hours dragging the hose about to water and water and water. It was hot and I burned, but I had to admit it was fun having a daily excuse to play in the water. I fought bugs and weeds and burned more.
The first part of July the first tomato turned from green to red. I was so excited! Like pop-corn the tomatoes, peppers and squash exploded in the heat, I was suddenly inundated by the storm of veggies! I picked and picked, with joy. Family and friends returned and ate and ate and their praises still make me smile. I hope never to forget the look on my youngest son's face as he bit into the first slice of tomato. "Mom", he said, "These are the best tomatoes I've ever had in my life!." He ate three of them that day and for a couple of weeks kept coming back for more. I gave bags of veggies away and picked and picked more. We had salads, stews and sauces and mixed vegetables. I filled the counters and fridge with vegetables, and picked more and gave away more. But still they came. I was totally swamped, I couldn't use them up fast enough, and still.... there was more! Finally I found tomatoes kept better on the vines and I quit watering. With a little guilt, I retreated to the house to let the garden just be the garden, out there with the birds that came for the sunflower seeds and the squirrels, rabbits, possums and raccoons that came for what ever they wanted. By this time they were welcome to it!
It frosted on the pumpkins last night. The garden is done, black and wilted. I looked at it this morning and realized that I planted more than a couple of tomato plants, I had planted memories, memories like my father had planted and loved. I know as I put my garden to bed, I'll remember the pot-luck lunches we had to feed everyone that came to shovel and rake the huge piles of new dirt brought in, the tea drank under the pine tree after a morning of watering, and I'll remember all the smiles given to me as I handed over grocery store bags filled with home grown veggies. I'll remember the laughter and the colors and the storms and the mornings. It frosted, last night...