Memories From a “Black Thumb”

By Beth M. Wood

Memories From a “Black Thumb”

I do not have a green thumb. Potted plants do not survive in my home. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a proud homeowner, and I take as much care of the outside of my house as I do the inside; trimming the landscaping and adding mulch in the springtime, mowing and watering the lawn in summer, raking leaves in the fall and shoveling the driveway in winter. But, I don’t consider myself a gardener. Plants in my care do not fair well.

I come by it honestly; my mom doesn’t have a green thumb either. She’s never tended a garden, planted fruits or vegetables or spent an afternoon working in the yard. As soon as we were old enough, my brother and I cut the lawn, trimmed the bushes and raked the leaves (mostly this last, so that we could jump in the ensuing big piles). You can imagine it didn’t look terribly lush with two teenagers at the helm.

The point is, that when I finally left home, and eventually married, I didn’t have a lick of knowledge about plants, potted or otherwise. My new mother-in-law, however, loved to plant. Hers was a tomato garden. Each spring she’d turn the soil, cover the plants and water the soft earth.

And each summer, she’d pluck swollen, red tomatoes from those delicate vines. I often wondered how such wispy, little vines could hold such abundance.

Her back, however, was not as strong as those vines, and tending her garden typically left her in a great deal of pain. So that first spring as her daughter-in-law, I offered to help plant new vines in her backyard garden. It was an arduous task, a labor of love that I didn’t fully realize until my back was bent over the earth, sun baking behind me.

I turned the earth while she regaled me with stories from her son’s youth. We laughed while the sweat poured down our backs. And a few months later, she called me over to pick the vegetables of our labor. And then she taught me how to make the most perfect BLT. Fresh white bread (not toasted!), crisp bacon, leafy lettuce, a dollop of real mayonnaise and the best part – fresh tomatoes, right from her own backyard.

Each spring we’d spend a day in her garden, clearing and turning the little patch of soil, and burying new plants deep in the ground. And each summer, I’d return to help her pluck brand-new tomatoes from those heavy vines.

Years later, her son and I divorced. It’s never an easy thing to go through, and for us it was tumultuous. There was a great deal of finger pointing, name-calling and, most of all, hurt. Our respective families surrounded us, our friends took sides, and by that first summer, my mother-in-law’s tomato garden was the farthest thing from my mind.

For several years, each time I looked back on my marriage, it was with a mixture of hurt and betrayal. I would pick apart every fight I could remember, every event that could be considered a sign of our marriage’s demise.

But, time truly is a great healer, and four years later, my ex and I are both healthy and, most importantly, happy again.

And lately, I have begun to remember different moments. Like the day we bought our very first Christmas tree, and I cried all the way home. Or the way our Doberman puppy would fall asleep with her tummy on the couch and her long, lean legs hanging over the side, her great, big paws dragging on the floor.

And every time I make a BLT (on white bread, untoasted) I am reminded of that first day my mother-in-law and I spent in her tomato garden.

Sometimes, we exert all our energies on trampling the past, and end up with nothing in return. But at some point, it becomes important to acknowledge what took years to build, even if its time has passed. And then move on; turn the soil, plant new seeds, make new memories, and be respectful of the ones that came before.

About this writer

  • Beth M. Wood Beth M. Wood is an award-winning marketer, freelance writer and mom of three. Her social media addiction pays the bills and steady copywriting gigs feed her shopping habit. She blogs about marketing and social media at, digresses about life and parenting at and tweets @a1972bmw.

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12 Responses to “Memories From a “Black Thumb””

  1. Diane Hunter says:

    I love the story and the way it can bring me back in time to similar memories. This writer has captured the ability to present a vivid picture of every detail she describes. We need more of this kind of writing. It’s fresh and inspiring!

  2. Phyllis Fredericksen says:

    Ms. Wood has shown us that, while painful, divorce can be a growth process in itself. It is obvious that her experiences have helped her grow as a person. Her writing shows us that it is important for us to remember the good times, as well as the bad, and move along on our journey. I will be anxious to read her next article!

  3. Shari says:

    Loved the article. It really touched me, and I’d like to see more like it.

  4. Mary says:

    A touching life experience written to inspire a “garden” lesson for all. The author motivates me to sow the seeds for my own garden journey.

  5. Linda O'Connell says:

    Beth’s essay illustrates that many kinds of seeds are planted in a garden and sometimes even after a period of dormancy, it is possible to cultivate the crop. Lovely story.

  6. Krysha Sorce says:

    I truly enjoyed Beths essay it brought me back to the times when my mother and I spent time in our gardens. She is gone now but everytime i work in my garden i think of all the tips she shared with me!!!! I sure miss her!!! A well written and a thoughtful writer.

  7. Vicki says:

    A great story that inspires us all to focus on the positive experiences in our lives. Loved it!!

  8. Katie Jones says:

    I just loved this article. It reminded me of my parents very difficult divorce. We all go through difficult times in our lives but we need to take what we have learned and move forward. This was beautifully written and I look forward to more from this very talented writer!

  9. My daughter is presently going through a divorce. I am forwarding Beth M.Wood’s article to her. It’s always good to know that there can be healing after so much hurt.

  10. Toni Ruda says:

    A wonderful reminder that even in long-lasting marriages, it is important to keep the wonderful memories close at hand.

  11. Mary says:

    Loved the article.

  12. Linda Tonnies says:

    The tomato planting brought back memories of our first attempt at gardening in New Mexico. Our neighbors were retired farmers. I think we gave them quite a few laughs. In the end we learned a lot from them. Friends and relatives enrich our lives.

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