Memories From a “Black Thumb”
By Beth M. Wood
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 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 bethmwoodblog.com, digresses about life and parenting at bethmwood.blogspot.com and tweets @a1972bmw.
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