Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Magic in their hands, food in my yard

Food is growing out of my yard. That that can happen has never ceased to amaze me.

For Mother's Day this year, Kevin bought me dirt. And dirt, luckily for him, was just what I wanted. He had tilled part of our yard last summer with the hope of putting a garden in, but ended up getting busy with a few dozen other things. And with my knee pain an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 prior to my surgery, I didn't push it.

But this spring, after healing from this year's health woes and starting to feel pretty darned good, I was ready. So I may have whined just a little, and he surprised me with some beautiful black soil.

And into it, we burrowed some tiny seeds, as well as some starter plants made available to us by a generous neighbor. Growing from seed is really my preference; you have to wait longer, but what a sense of accomplishment.

Kevin texted me at work the other day. "Carrots!" the text said. And today, it was "Peas!" And sure enough, when I got home, I saw what you see in the photo above.

We're growing food. And that thrills me.

Kevin and I both have good jobs. We've never gone hungry. But there's something about knowing you're helping to provide for your family through your two hands and Mother Nature -- something much more satisfying than wheeling a cart around the grocery store.

When my kids were little, I gardened, and they helped me. We harvested potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, enough peas for one dinner (and I burned them!), and enough raspberries to feed the neighborhood. I still remember how thrilled the kids were to stuff the berries into their chubby little faces as we waited on the front porch for the kindergarten bus.

Their chubby little faces -- not so chubby now -- are in their own apartments now. But I know they share the memories.

Gardening also ties me to the more distant past. In the 19-teens, my grandparents -- both sets -- came to this country, like so many, in search of a better opportunity. They brought little but some clothing and meager belongings, yet they had magic in their hands. One of my grandparents died before I was born, and two more passed away the year I turned four. Yet I've seen the pictures and heard the stories, and I'm pretty sure I have a few snapshots in my own head.

My Grandpa Joe's meticulous gardens on Sixth and Jefferson with their straight, straight rows and splashes of color. My Nana's vegetable garden in her back yard that looked out on St. Anthony's school; I remember her hunched over, pulling peppers, in her black house dress and white apron. To me, her house forever held the smell of vine-ripened tomatoes, big as cantaloupes, stewing in olive oil.

Their wealth was in the food that grew from the ground they cultivated. I wish I remembered more about them, but I like to think that as they passed from this world to the next, they whispered something in my ear and slipped a little magic into my hands.

I can't sing, I can't play an instrument, and I can't throw a football. But I can make food grow from my yard. Each time it happens, it amazes me. And this year, I'll try hard not to burn the peas.

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