Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My mom's dad was a gardener.  His garden was large enough to feed our family of seven, his family (him, my grandmother and my invalid uncle, "Benny Sherrill"), and have plenty leftover to give to neighbors.  It was big enough to fill 3 deep freezers and a huge pantry of canning jars every year.  It was big enough for him to work in from sun-up to sun-down and still have plenty for us five kids to do for hours everyday.  Between homework and garden, that's about all we did.  We would step off the school bus to bushels and bushels (no exaggeration) of work.  The stain of purple hull peas stayed on our hands for days.  The sandy grit of shelling butterbeans.  The shucking and careful silking of the corn that would be inspected by our (once upon a time) USDA inspector grandfather.  The sycamore tree that popped its bark off during thunderstorms that kept off the sun we shucked for hours.  The many hours of standing on the yummy a/c vent, picking out wormy peas as I ran the batches through cold water (somehow made more lovely by seeing my brothers through the window sweating it out).  The watermelons and cantaloupes that lived all over his house, on all the other a/c vents to chill them.  Ever stubbed your toe on a watermelon in the living room?  The time he accidentally hit a watermelon with the tractor tire, and we stopped right there- to eat sun-warmed, busted up watermelon in the field.  

My grandfather was not a kind man.  Rough, gruff.  He died the week of my wedding; we teasingly said he did it out of spite.  I cried the first time he called me "honey," and then got yelled at.  He shamelessly played favorites with the grandkids, and I was not one of them- haha.  But there were times, like when he would request #160, "Under His Wings," when I wondered what played there inside his head.  Somehow, even through all our complaints (to which he'd respond, "You wanna eat this winter, don't ya?") we all picked up bits and pieces of him which come out in the spring.  Even my younger brother, Ethan, the worst sworn enemy of the garden, has one of his own now.  Will wonders never cease?

Nathan says, "Gardening is in your past.  Let's keep it there."  And for good reason.  I'm not actually good at it.  We were experts in our individual tasks.  That means there are parts of gardening I could do in my sleep, but those mostly involve harvest.  Unfortunately, for me, I was in school when he was putting in the seed and fertilizing and doing the daily things plants require.  But even with that, something kicks in this time of year, and I feel compelled to plant something.  Somehow, the joy of holding something edible that comes from my yard outweighs the fact that I kill off 90% of what I plant.

As a tribute to my grandfather, we often eat purple hull peas, albeit from the store.  He would be proud to know that I still smash them (as he taught me to), salt them and eat them on saltines.  Of course, that pride might disappear if he saw that I planted morning glories ("those nasty weeds") on purpose and plan to let them wreak glorious havoc. 

Putting in the Seed

by Robert Frost
You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper's on the table, and we'll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Enjoyed this....a lot like my grandpa in lots of ways...