i wrote this piece as a creativity boot camp challenge word prompt, but wanted to actually feature it here and not just under my create page.
mama was a natural despite being as northern-bred and citified as they come. she made plenty of mistakes early on, like the time she put a whole cup of sugar in the greens instead of just a tablespoon. granny b sure cackled at that and my dad wore his bemused expression which looks an awful lot like his annoyed expression.
she'd never canned before, but after that garden with more corn and tomatoes than we knew what to do with (and more shucking than i'd ever hoped to do again), she had so many rows of red the color of july, all lined up neat, brass rims a smart salute to her success.
and flowers, too, responded to her touch. she weeded to forget the hour-long commute to work, and she watered to forget the politics of an office. river rocks lined the pathway, and her little pond bubbled and shimmered fleeting gold below. she had primroses she transplanted from meemee's kentucky farm, all the assorted annual color she could find, and a few haphazard succulents for humor. we never wondered at the love she had for that garden.
i didn't love the idea of gardening until i lived with meg--and even then i never really asked her to teach me what she knew. i always assumed there'd be plenty of time to learn by osmosis. she had a different love for the garden, one that reveled in the sheer work of it, of the hands dirty and shade hat pulled tight and low, and the lawn immaculate, not just to HOA standards but to her own.
she shared her garden with gale who lived next door, and they separated too-thick day lillies and let sweet william grow all over the place, and waited breathlessly for the don juans to scent the air. meg always wished the peonies on her side would do as well as gale's, and gale always wished her quince would produce any fruit at all.
she gave me the ficus tree she'd had for years before i knew her, a beloved weeping benjamin. i threw it in the trash heap outside last weekend, its branches dry and brittle from too many forgotten waterings and too many grubby fingers snapping twigs and pulling on roots. the tree had died on my watch. she used to hang the jesse tree ornaments for her boys growing up, and my ornaments are still wrapped away, waiting til the boys are old enough not to tear them up. there's no place to hang them now.
we've always rented, and so i've never really taken time to rake soil and sow tender shoots, but i dream. i dream of a garden that i can fill with edible bounty and find treasure for the three boys that have grown inside of me and are growing outside of me. i pore over burpee catalogs and wistfully sigh at the jackson and perkins roses, but i have no garden, and no one close by to teach me to till the land.
i haven't been to mama's house in seven years. i lived with meg for only three, but we talk weekly and she asks after my little seedlings, those boys of big feet and tall stature and loud laughs that mama has never known. and i wonder what kind of garden i will grow. who will teach me?