I am a daughter of the suburbs – not from the city, not from the country. This means that I don’t know how to ride the subway, and I can’t milk a cow.
I should be no more than one generation removed from an old farm girl, my mother, except that she left her parents’ farm for Europe and boarding school when she was 12 and she never really looked back. And although she did end up getting her degree in horticulture and somewhere in a shoe box in my closet there are pictures of my mother standing next to beds of lettuce in the back yard of our first house in Oregon, I don’t remember planting or eating or growing that lettuce.
Some summers my step father channeled his inner Martha Stewart and grew tomatoes in a garden plot a few miles from our house, and I have spent enough time at farmer’s markets to know the difference between a home grown tomato in August and what’s sold at the grocery store in January. And I’ve dog eared pages in the Burpee Catalog for longer than I care to admit, and last year Mr. E grew a pepper plant in our flower border, but I’ve never planted a real honest to goodness from seed garden before.
However. I am lucky. If I go back just one step before my mother, I’ve got an old farm girl right there in my root stock.
My Grandmother Greenwood wasn’t the fun grandmother. She didn’t sew me dresses or bake cookies, she didn’t pick out the right presents, things 13 old girls wanted to wear. She liked the sauce a little bit more than maybe she should have, and she made us put together puzzles of Vermont whenever she came to visit. She was not, by any stretch of the imagination, what you’d call cuddly.
But the woman could grow a bean. And this year, for the first time in my entire adult life, so will I. And I swear to goodness every damn time I check my tomato seedlings or rifle through my seed packets or add “stakes and twine” to the list of crap I need at Home Depot, I am ten years old again, standing in my grandmother’s garden, picking string beans for dinner, in awe. Knocked out of my socks that someone could grow not only such gorgeous things but also actual food and I think that must have been the moment, the moment that I decided that some day, I would too would grow something from nothing more than dirt and seeds and that someday my children and grandchildren would stand in the dirt surrounded by things I had planted and pick beans for dinner and marvel at what can grow from such small things.
She never baked cookies. I never want to see another puzzle of Vermont for as long as I live. But no matter. I am grateful beyond measure for that old farm girl – she reminds me that we are all a part of what came before. And I like to think that every shovel full of soil I turn over and every tomato plant I stake and every bean I pick makes her proud.
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