November 19, 2007
Gardening is in my blood. My grandparents had World War II victory gardens. My parents had a big backyard, about a third of an acre. My dad was a vegetable gardener, my mom grew flowers. Neither of them were great cooks, so I don't remember specific family recipes. What I remember are delicious fresh vegetables--tomatoes, string beans, corn, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce. No tomatoes or corn have ever tasted as good. They had wonderful blueberries bushes, which supplied enough berries to freeze for winter cereal. Before my mom went back to college, she canned tomatoes.
Gardening was the perfect way for my dad to unwind from his actuarial job and his long railroad commute into Manhattan. I remember his encouraging us to start our own little gardens. I remember helping him plant strawberries. I remember picking off Japanese beetles from the rose bushes and putting them in a jar of something that killed them. The garden was the best place for long talks with dad, away from the noise of too many brothers in a too small house.
After we moved to Long Island in 1983, I slowly became a gardener. I am erratic. I like to garden in the spring and fall before the summer heat drains my energy and motivation. I plant more than I weed. I usually grow herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant. We have lots of perennials in the front yard; zinnias seem the ideal summer annual. Pruning and cutting the grass was an ideal way to deal with my anger in the years when my first marriage was dying. Visiting the garden first thing in the morning energizes me. Weeding is good for depression.
Since I became a grandmother, nurturing my grandson has replaced gardening. I look forward to introducing Michael to gardening when he is two and telling him stories about the great-grandparents he never met.