A few posts ago, I wrote about mowing the lawn and now that it’s Father’s Day, I’d like to revisit it.
My father is the one who taught me how to mow the lawn. It was an orange, gas-powered model, and my father taught me how to pull the cord, adjust the throttle, pour the gas, and the all-important mowing pattern. The idea was to mow the perimeter, and then to continue in smaller and smaller circles until I reached the middle of the yard. In reality, it was a rite of passage; a passing of the torch.
My mother and my father had different approaches to gardening. My mother planted flowers and filled pots and worked at making the yard and home look pretty and appealing. My father, on the other hand, was the gardener. He did the digging and turning of soil. He pruned the trees and shrubs, including the blue hydrangea in the backyard. This is still a sore point, because it never rebounded. It may be why I’m hesitant to cut any of my own hydrangeas. I know there are those that bloom on old wood, and those that bloom on new wood — but for me, there will be no hydrangea pruning, thank you very much.
My father organized and planted the family’s vegetable garden. It was filled with tomatoes, carrots, pole beans, bush beans and so much more. What my father didn’t realize is that he planted more than vegetables in that garden. It was the family garden, our garden, and each one of us participated in the planting and caring of our small home garden. We weeded and harvested and told Dad of any pests that were getting too comfortable in it. And although it was small, for us it was “the lower forty.”
With each harvest, my sister and I were treated to the freshest produce, the juiciest tomatoes. Today, we are able to carry on those same traditions in our own families — all that from a suburban vegetable garden.
My father’s greatest pride were and still are the apple and pear trees in his backyard. They are also the cause of his greatest gardening stress. If you think I have squirrel issues, you should see my father. There are times when he comes very close to being the Bill Murray character in Caddyshack. When everything is ripening, a visit with him will always include a count of how much fruit remains on the trees and how many those ft%%$^%g squirrels got. Inevitably, though, there is always enough for him to make at least one of his delicious home-made apple pies.
Since beginning this blog, I have been thinking a lot about gardeners and the reasons why we garden. Father’s Day seems to have compounded those thoughts. I have come to the conclusion that gardening taps into something within us, perhaps even at the chromosomal level. Is there really a difference between my father teaching me to mow and a prehistoric man teaching his son to hunt and gather? Is there a difference between my father’s desire to tame the wilds of his suburban yard and the colonists who first set foot in the New World? Is there a difference between my father surveying his square foot garden and a pioneer surveying his hundred-acre spread? And I’m pretty sure that in some remote rain forest village, there is a father cursing at the Amazonian vermin that ate his tropical treat.
And when it comes to my father — or perhaps all fathers — planting a garden, nurturing a garden, teaching others about his garden — there is a sense of pride and love. For nature. For tradition. For fathers and children.
Happy Father’s Day!