The weather is delightful here in St. Louis, 78 degrees and sunny. Hubby tilled his vegetable garden and is itching to get his crop of tomatoes and peppers planted. Our weather is unpredictable and usually everyone waits at least until April 30th to put in tomato plants.
I am reminded of a time many years ago when our first grandchildren were young. Kyle was three and Ashley was seven when they helped plant
published in The Ultimate Gardener, HCI Communications, Inc. 2009
Along with a healthy crop of tomatoes
and peppers, one season compassion grew in my husband’s garden. After our children grew up and married, we
moved into a condo. When our grandchildren started arriving, we purchased a
small ranch house with an even smaller back yard. Although we gave up the
luxury of a community pool, we absolutely felt like we had traded up. We were
thrilled with the 6’x15’ patch of rich, dark soil at the far corner of our backyard.
Bill had his idea of gardening, and I had mine. We couldn’t wait to get our
hands in the dirt. He had grandiose visions of a garden boasting the reddest,
roundest and plumpest tomatoes, and crunchy green and yellow peppers. He even
generously planted a few extra tomato bushes for the wildlife and neighbors. I
envisioned my garden as a small artist’s palette of petunias, marigolds and
miniature rose bushes – just a strip of soil along the perimeter of the patio.
It was very satisfying planting, nurturing and watching our gardens grow.
When the tomatoes and peppers were ripe, our grandchildren couldn’t wait
to help Grandpa
pick his veggies. Kyle, then three, nibbled as many elongated
banana peppers as he picked, and
Ashley, then seven, harvested tomatoes until
they overflowed the crook in her arm. They ate ripe,
red, juicy tomatoes as if
they were apples. Forget the toy box in the guest room. The kids were
get into grandpa’s garden every time they came for a visit that first summer.
showed them how to walk on the stepping stones between the rows, and he
taught them about
roots and shoots, leaves and stems. Every visit was a
hands-on, fingers-in-the-soil nature lesson
when they came to our house.
love it in Grandpa’s Garden,” they both said. They loved the dirt, the worms
and the buried
treasure they discovered.
One late fall day, they came for
a visit and ran out the back door. They stopped abruptly in
their tracks. My
flowers had all withered, and Grandpa’s garden was barren; he had ripped out all
of the plants.
Devastated, they stood on
the dry earth and cried, “Our garden!”
Bill, a hulking six
two-hundred-fifty-pounder knelt down in the dirt beside the children. At their
and with a gentle touch, he consoled them as he explained the life
cycle of plants. He told them
to expect a new crop next year, and he promised them
that they could even help him plant in the
In March, spring teased our town with a
premature warm snap. Bill tilled the rich earth in his
shirt sleeves in the hot
sun; he was as anxious as the kids to dig in the dirt. He was wise enough
know that a frost would destroy a prematurely planted tomato crop. Each time
Kyle arrived they’d plead with him to plant the garden. Together they
counted the days until May
, when they could plant again without
the threat of frost.
The week before the scheduled planting, unexpectedly,
Bill had to have foot surgery and
was incapacitated. The planting had to be delayed
two more weeks. Patience is not a child’s
virtue. So Grandpa gave them
permission to go dig in his garden when they came to visit. I
handed each of
them a big serving spoon and they happily darted outside. Every now and then
came in to share a treasure they had unearthed. Then they’d rush back to the
more fun. This went on for over an hour; the adults were content to
stay inside and the kids
happily played outside. The last time they came in,
they lingered in the guest room a little
longer than usual; then they slipped
out the back door unnoticed for more fun in Grandpa’s
When I peeked out the kitchen window to check
on them, I gasped. Ashley and Kyle were
tromping though the plot of dirt, bent
over, each of them digging and planting. There were
hundreds of flowers in full
bloom, an array in every color and in every variety imaginable. A
flowers blanketed more than two thirds of
Grandpa’s garden and they were still at it!
“Bill, come quick! You have to see this.” He hobbled to the window and
“What are you kids doing?” he called.
helping you, Paw-Paw, ‘cause your foot’s hurt,” Kyle said.
Grandpa, we’re planting your garden for you!” Ashley exclaimed proudly.
I soon discovered what they had discovered in the guest room. They had
with my shopping bag which was filled with an assortment of
artificial flowers. I had intended
to use them with my preschool classes for a
combined science, arts and crafts project. Bill and
I laughed with delight at
the brilliant crazy quilt of fake flowers they had stuck in the dirt, a
compassionate gift, intended for their recuperating grandpa.
The grandchildren, now fifteen and
eighteen, fondly remember playing Grandpa’s Garden.
Kyle grows his own
tomatoes and peppers each summer, and eighteen year old Ashley still has
affinity for pastel flowers - only now, they come from her boyfriend. Thanks to
Garden’ they both developed a deep appreciation for the good earth
and what it can produce.
One very special grandpa planted the seeds of love
that sprouted a crop of compassion.
Kyle is now almost 23 and Ashley is almost 27, and still this memory holds a special place in all our hearts.