Wednesday, November 10, 2010


My grandmother had a rock garden.

Just inside the front door, under a giant window, was a reservoir of white rocks.

She had a variety of houseplants in pots growing there, she who could grow anything from light and air. There was always a jelly jar with something rooting, by the kitchen sink. Tomatoes and peppers at the back door. Cacti and succulents on the coffee table. I know where that came from, that tendency to grow green matter for no reason other than growing.

Her own mother.

My Nanny was always old, as a great-grandmother would be. She was a farmer's wife, though I did not realize that for a while. I only knew that she gardened and cooked. Gardened in the manner of a half-acre vegetable smorgasbord that she and my grandmother grew, not the aesthetic flower gardening so lovely and inedible. No, people of the Depression needed to look out their windows and see that year's food spread before them. I thought that was normal, that sprawling sort of selection.

She would drive out to the farm, park in the field behind my house, and walk through the garden, harvesting.

I would see her car and dash back there, a barefoot stick of a country girl, to poke down the overgrown aisles with her. Vivid yellow squash blossoms, bumpy small cucumbers, towering bean vines, cool dirt - these memories come easily. Nanny pointed and let me gather what was ripe. "He-yah, Bethy Lee," she would utter with a grunt, pointing at some hidden squash. I would cautiously poke under the leaves, ever alert for snakes, and twist the plump squash away.

She of the green thumb, passing that greenness down.

Down and down through family homes filled with house plants, now civilized and easily kept. Her vegetables served fresh and seasoned are not easily forgotten. Some of my earliest remembrances are set in her kitchen, a sunny place on Harvey Street that has been gone for years. A biscuit and a backyard full of fruit trees.

Green thumbs cannot be staunched.

Farm wife to downtown wife, trailing green whither she goes.

It flows as a constant through the family the compulsive push to tend and nurture, feed and flourish. Daughter to daughter to son - where it sits this generation, in my brother.

He can't help but plant and grow, and his plants can't help but thrive as lush as Jack's beanstalk.

I can't help but see this and let it warm me, this constancy of genetics.

And in the meantime, passively tend my own small piece of the green, gathered from my grandmother's rock garden as it was dismantled on her passing. A potted aloe plant, now placed on my piano. Thriving despite my inability, despite my lack of the green luck, all plump tentacles waiting to be needed.

And tucked in the midst, a forgotten gift from a decade ago... from me to my Gig.

Somehow I was meant to have this plant.

(You can thank Phoenix for this post - as he unearthed the pinwheel yesterday, from the depths of the aloe. I grinned and remembered painting it for Gig, and how she moved it from plant to plant over the years. You may also notice how Phoenix has unearthed my long-ago nickname - another reason why his shouts of "Bethalee" always make me grin...)

1 comment:

  1. B - you have beautiful gardens - potted, but who cares? That Bethalee had to come from somewhere didn't it? Love your trip down memory lane.


Put it right here, babe!