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Both of my grandmothers lived near us when we were growing up. One lived within walking distance and the other five miles away, in town. Grandma Lora loved flowers and her front porch was filled with coffee cans of petunias. There were the simple purple ones, the white lacy ones, and the deep red ones. I loved to pull the flowers and suck the honey from the tapered ends. The front porch spanned the front of her house. On one side of the steps she planted red verbena and purple verbena on the other side. I remember helping her string twine across the porch wooden supports for morning glories; blue on one side and pink on the other.
We would visit with Grandma Lora on Saturdays when the family came to “town” to buy the weekly groceries. Most of our food we raised on our small farm but there were staples like flour, sugar, cornmeal to buy and fabric and miscellaneous merchandise. There was also a trip to the “Drug Store” to get an ice cream cone (5 cents). I always chose strawberry, one of my sisters chose chocolate and the other sister would eat nothing but vanilla.
The porch at Lora’s contained a white swing and white wooden chairs that Pop our step-grandfather had made. He was a carpenter. Often I sat in the swing and admired the morning glories and listened to Laura talk about her girlhood and my mother’s girlhood. Three generations of gardeners; my grandmother, my mother and myself. Its as if gardening runs in my genes.
My earliest gardening memory is of sitting on a tall white bed playing with a shoe box full of seeds. My mother would buy seeds at the local hardware store where they would be scooped up and placed in manilla envelopes and then tied with a red string that wrapped around a red circle. Little fingers could not resist this little string and soon I had emptied all the seeds into the shoe box. Such interesting little round balls of all sizes. I was fascinated. My mother was quite a bit less fascinated and had to purchase new seeds.
Since I had exhibited and interest in seeds my mother allowed me to plant larkspur and pumpkins in one corner of the garden. I remember my delight in watching the seeds come up and then bloom. The larkspur reseeded for years and may still be coming up in that corner. The pumpkins were not as rewarding but I do recall that I had one little small one mature that fall that I made into a jack-o-lantern.
My Grandma Eva lived very near us and often we would walk through the woods to visit. In my memory she seems to have always been in a rocker in her bedroom, sitting facing the floor heater and wearing a sweater. Grandma Eva was a woman of few words. Her life had been hard and her husband had died at age 51 leaving her a widow with 6 children to raise. She had a garden for vegetables and on the fence of this garden was planted sweet peas. I can still smell their fragrance and see the wonderful pastel colors of white, pink and lavender. There was also a pale pink climbing rose that grew on this same fence. I love to pick the roses and take a bouquet home with me.
Grandma Eva never spoke to us of her childhood or our father’s childhood. She rarely spoke directly to us at all. Looking back I think she must have been depressed or maybe living in her past when her husband was alive. Life was hard after his death and there was little time for flowers. The land had to be farmed with produce that would keep the family fed—with the leftover produce sold to make a little money. My father, the oldest son, did the farming for her. He plowed the fields and grew the watermelons and the purple hull peas. He sold the vegetables from the back of his truck. The children grew up and became my aunts and uncles. The large fields were no longer planted but she kept her little vegetable garden and the sweet peas on the fence.
Gardens sometimes are the only thing that keep you going, they inspire you to live life, growing along with your plants.
Excerpt from my mother’s diary:
August 28, 1982
How good it is to have a little rest break in the midst of the day's work!
My husband, Alvin, was a farmer in our early years of marriage. At noon he had a pallet out under two big sweet gum trees, and there he napped at noon, having risen very early to be in the field plowing by sun up.
I too like a nap, or a few minutes of reading for a break!
Author’s note: To read more about my gardening experiences see my blog on my personal page