After an unusually long day, I met up with my husband and friends for dinner. It was a nice time. I was weary but I felt blessed. When I came home I tended to email and found one from my cousin Tim. He wrote: Hi Lesley, I wasn’t sure if you had a copy of it or not. I spent the day today going through all of Grandpa’s slides, and scanning them. I separated all the ones that are of your family, and I will send them off in the mail to you if you send me your address. I know how much your garden means to you, and when I saw this I couldn’t wait for you to see it.”
When I saw the picture I cried. I had not known it existed, but upon seeing it, I felt the pull to a time long ago. It was as if my Grandma crossed over and reached out to me to remind me not to forget, to remind me to never give up on dreams.
As a young girl, I watched my grandmother tend faithfully to her roses and tomatoes and a host of other plants. I would be much older before I recognized the love she passed on to me of things which grow in the ground. My grandmother was a good cook who made homemade bread and plates of salad culled from her garden. She made the perfect roast beef. I never gave it any thought that she was more than the food she grew and cooked, the presents she wrapped for us, the beds she made sure were clean and warm for a long night’s rest. I took my grandmother for granted. It was never intentional. Rather, like most things, it is another example of the things and people we assume will always be there, only to find when they are not how much we miss them.
My grandmother did not complain of the wood burning stove she stoked daily to cook the daily fare, or the Sunday dinners we all attended. She found purpose, I believe, waiting on us. We sang her praises as the savory roast beef arrived from the oven and the bread lay perfectly leavened before us. She waited a long time before giving in to more contemporary cooking inventions. Before that moment arrived I will always remember the crackling wood giving heat to the stove she used and my grandmother’s tireless devotion to creating food that fed our hunger and our senses.
My grandmother danced with grace as my grandfather twirled her around the kitchen. She cheered the San Francisco Giants religiously each Sunday and many more times in between while watching her cherished TV or by listening to her portable radio she took everywhere with her including into the garden. I wonder now to a degree that I didn’t then what passions and hopes she carried within her that we never knew.
I told myself I would not grow up like my grandmother, because I thought she gave up too much of herself to please those around her, but now I see the foolishness of such thoughts. My grandmother’s life was not perfect but neither has been the life I have carved for myself in defiance of hers and my mother’s and all the others I may have judged in between.
My garden and all that comes from it is a reflection of what I have learned and keep learning. Like my grandmother, I grow tomatoes and nurture roses. On rarer occasions I bake bread, not as well as my grandmother, but certainly with the memory of her and the comfort she gave me each time I visited her. There are parts of my grandmother I will never know, but I figure the garden is probably the best place I can honor her memory and create a few of my own.
Tending a garden, tending a life for that matter, takes constancy. My Grandma was constant in her effort to give us comfort. Her table often shared these blessings. It was as if she were saying: if you want beauty, then you have to make time for it. She was also saying it was worth the effort. A rose well tended will give you constant pleasure. It may survive just fine in the absence of such care, but not so well. My Grandma may never have made the books of well-known figures, but her life and daily efforts made an indelible footprint in my life. She was and is one of my heroes.
I will treasure this picture always because it reminds me of the life that helped to mentor my life. We go along many paths in our journey. If we stop long enough, we may discover the treasures of our existence. They lie in landscapes of flowers and vegetables. They lie in the relationships that grace our lives daily. They lie in the sounds of birds feasting on seed. They lie in the memories found in pictures of people who touched us in ways we sometimes discover long after their departure from this world. We must nurture these gifts as if they are all we have. Crossing over my Grandma was saying just that. Thank you, Tim, for surrendering to the task of capturing memories. Thank you, Grandma, for speaking through him.