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Produce-ing memories

It had been a long day at work, and quite honestly, the only thing I wanted to do when I got home was put on a pair of cotton sweatpants, an old T-shirt and curl up on the couch. But you see, I had this brilliant idea in the spring that we should have a garden, and a couple of tomato plants just wouldn’t suffice.

No, I had to plant enough tomato plants to feed a small army, along with peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, onions and more. And now ... a few months later, I fight the eternal battle of going out to the garden after a tiring day at work — in the middle of the hottest part of the day — to pick more produce than one family could ever eat in a lifetime.

Tomatoes! It was craziness. Cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, a Snow White tomato our friends Richard and Connie told us about, slicers, hybrids, heirlooms ... what the heck! It is tomato city, and as if it isn’t just difficult enough to pick them, then I have to decide how many ways I can prepare these glorious red vegetables (I know they are a fruit, but that doesn’t seem right to me) or figure out one more person I can pawn off some of these tomatoes to.

And so it was the other day when the mercury was teetering on 90 degrees, and I was shoulder deep into tomato plants. My tomato baskets were getting really full.. The longer I picked, the more sweaty I got. It wasn’t long before I did what I always do in demanding situations ... I started to daydream.

It didn’t take long before I was taken back nearly 50 years ago, when Grandpa and I would head to the family’s garden to reap the benefits of our springtime efforts. We had a massive garden — one which I helped to plant, harvest and ultimately spent hours in the kitchen helping Grandma can and freeze and prepare a plethora of fresh produce. No kidding. A garden fed our family. It wasn’t just a novelty or a hobby. We had to have a garden. It fed our family.

From there my mind wandered to the basement (we called it the cellar years ago), where jar after jar of canned vegetables lived. I can’t even count how many times I was sent to the cellar to retrieve a glass jar of pickles, tomatoes, green beans or applesauce. It was what farm families did. It’s how we ate. We would have never thought of buying a jar of pickles or a can of tomatoes at the store. That just wasn’t frugal.

Still picking tomatoes and lost in my past, it wasn’t long before the tears were mixed with sweat as I strolled up and down Memory Lane and the row of vegetables. I don’t remember complaining about working the garden with my grandparents, for it was just expected. If you wanted to eat at my house, then it was simple — you needed to help. And we did. It was just part of being a family.

My grandparents taught me many valuable lessons; they were lessons they instilled in me by their examples, their words — examples that came from their hearts. I think about them a lot, and I always wish I could repay them for everything they gave me throughout the years I shared with them. They weren’t folks with lots of money or property or possessions, but they were loving people with big hearts who were generous — not just with what they owned but also with their love and kindness. I am forever grateful.

Sunday is Grandparents Day. What I wouldn’t give to have my grandparents over for dinner, give them special gifts and treat them to a fun-filled day to honor them and the impact they’ve had in my life. But for me, that opportunity is gone. Only memories remain for me.

If you’re lucky enough to still have your grandparents in your life, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to tell them how much they mean to you. Life is so unpredictable. Give them a Grandparents Day they’ll always remember. Do it while you can.

Contact BCR Editor Terri Simon at tsimon@bcrnews.com.

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