As a kid, I hated the vegetable garden. If you stood on our back porch, it was to your left. It took up the entire corner of our large yard.
To me, gardens were work and nothing more. From planting, to weeding, to harvesting, to canning, it was a waste of valuable play time. It also took away the area of the yard that the neighborhood kids and I liked using for a baseball diamond.
I would watch television and see advertisements for Birdseye Frozen Vegetables, Green Giant corn, beans and peas, and wonder why I had to help with something that the Jolly Green Giant was already doing. Besides, he was a giant, so he should be able to knock out our gardening needs in nothing flat. All we had to do was go to the Piggly Wiggly and buy what he offered.
Walking through the rows during each hot, Arkansas summer, the tomato and okra plants would make my skin itch. The mosquitos from the nearby rice paddies would swarm, and I would try and swat them without spilling the vegetables that I had been instructed to pick and was precariously balancing in my hands and on my arms.
My grandmother would come to our house, and I was forced to sit and help shell peas. We would sit in a circle and my grandmother would put a round, porcelain wash pan on her lap.
She’d fill it with a stack of purple hulls and then one by one, pop the end from the pea pod and then rapidly run her thumb through it, putting the peas into a bowl on her left and then the empty pea pod into a Piggly Wiggly sack on the floor on her right. She did this in one seamless motion, over and over until she was done.
During the shelling, which could take hours, she would tell stories of her memories of doing the same thing with her grandparents and other long-since-passed ancestors of mine. She would tell me how how much I would have liked one or the other. And how much they would have liked me.
I asked once why we needed so many vegetables.
“Oh, we don’t,” she said. “We will share the extra with those who can use them.”
“What?” I thought. “Why are we doing all of this extra work for food we aren’t even going to eat?”
I would patiently wait until we were finished and then ask if I could go outside and play.
I hated that garden.
When I grew up and married, I took Mr. Birdseye and the Jolly Green Giant up on their generous offers. Buying vegetables was easy and convenient.
My children never had to endure a garden. I saw to that.
A year or so after the kids had left the nest, my wife asked me to clear out a square area behind our house that the previous owners had used to plant shrubs, flowers, or who knows what. It was bordered with old railroad cross ties, stacked three high.
If you stood on our back porch, it was to your left. It took up the entire corner of our large yard.
I cleared it of the weeds and rocks. I say rocks, but most of them were more like boulders.
When it was cleared, I looked at it and thought about what we could do with it. Since potatoes are my favorite food, I thought about how great it would be to be able to go outside and dig up some whenever I wanted to.
But, I couldn’t remember how to grow them. So, I called my grandmother.
Using her instructions, we wound up with an amazing crop. My wife and I were quite pleased.
Several years passed. So did my grandmother.
When we moved to the country, our garden grew. My wife planted more and more things. Tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, and others edibles were added.
Our grandson was engaged each summer when he visited to help with the picking and harvesting. As he assisted, I would tell him of his ancestors; those in our family that I used to help with the garden.
I told him about how much he would have liked one or the other. And how much they would have liked him.
©2016 John Moore
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