Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Garden

"The Garden"

Every year, around this time, I always find myself in the mood to dig in the dirt. I take in the smell of freshly watered flowers and potting soil, look longingly at the plants and packets full of seeds in the local garden shops, and I picture the beautiful little garden I could create if I just put my mind to it. Oh, and if I was just the type of person who liked to garden.

You see, most of the time, the great outdoors and I aren't the most amicable companions. I consider walking to my car as my "outside time" and up until a recent news report on the peanut butter salmonella outbreak, I thought there was such a thing as a peanut tree.

That's why you'd probably never know I grew up watching my father and grandfather turn several acres of our North Georgia land into a huge vegetable garden, year after year. I promise I didn't even know green beans came in a can until I moved away to Athens for college. I always just assumed everyone's parents grew tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, corn, and a million other things, and that every other kid my age was forced to spend the entire rest of the year eating them. And I'm not talking about some little backyard vegetable garden. There was always enough for all of our relatives to have fresh vegetables with each meal, enough to give some to any out-of-town visitors, and enough to give some to all the old ladies at church, with plenty leftover for my mother and grandmother to spend hours in the kitchen, canning.

In those days, I often liked to help. My father would let me drop the seeds in the holes and I would anxiously await the day when we could start picking everything. But eventually, as I grew older, my girlyness got the best of me and when the threat of frogs or beetles hiding in the dirt got to be too much, I traded in gardening for more appropriate outdoor activities such as sunbathing and watching my best friend's dreamy older brother cut their grass.

Even as I grew out of my desire to help with the family garden, the first signs of spring would put me back in the mood; it never failed. When I got a little older, my parents would buy me some seeds for my birthday or Easter (usually it was flowers, one time it was carrots) and they'd set aside a little spot in the garden and let me do what I had to do. For the first few days, I'd love my little garden - weeding it, watering it, and checking on it several times a day, but my patience would wear thin and after about a week, I'd forget about my little patch of dirt in favor of friends and fun. Sometimes, despite the lack of attention, my seeds would grow and the sight of budding Zinnias or Marigolds would reinforce my desire to have a green thumb, but most of the time, I'd just have to listen to my mom fuss about how she could have planted pumpkins in that wasted spot (even though I'm sure she's never actually planted pumpkins).

Over the last few years, even though I've reached adulthood and am out on my own, I find myself, once again, feeling the need to return to my roots. Maybe it's the precious memories of time spent with family. Whether I was sitting on the back porch helping my grandmother string beans or wondering what my father thought was so funny when I compared myself to Laura Ingalls Wilder after about five minutes of working in the garden, I am grateful that I had those experiences. I'm grateful that I developed a preference for fresh vegetables, not just because of the taste, but because I am blissfully aware of the hard work that goes into getting them on the supper table. I'm grateful that every single holiday meal is flanked with vegetables grown right outside by the hands of the people I love most. I'm grateful that I got to see those people put so much effort into something that so many take for granted these days.

As for this year, I've been doing a little research and looking into several different types of flowers and vegetables. I've been reading up on when the best time to plant is, what sort of conditions different plants need to grow, and, okay, I must confess I may or may not be looking into which ones need the least attention. But regardless of what happens, I know I can always go home to help or just to get my share of fresh vegetables. My father and grandfather (at 83) are still at it after all these years!


Author: Sarah Anderson
Sarah Way Down South