I have to give credit where credit is due.
My parents were the first ones who introduced me to gardening. There were Mom’s rules about deadheading and weeding and Dad’s lessons on mowing and crop rotation — even if the farm was a tucked away corner of the yard.
Recently, I spent several days in my childhood home and lazed away summer afternoons in the backyard, where the slower pace was marked by the filling of bird feeders and the waiting and watching for feathered arrivals.
Since leaving home, though, the backyard has gone through several changes — including a literal upheaval as a result of Super Storm Sandy.
Nevertheless, there were whispers and ghosts of the garden gone by.
At first, memories came slowly. A weeping willow once stood in the middle of the yard. When it was cut down, to make room for an above-ground pool, its long branches made a leafy teepee for a small boy.
Then the recollections really started to flow.
That’s where I spent countless hours in the dirt, playing with Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars. And that’s where GI Joe explored a vast wilderness in his all-terrain vehicle, while Big Jim camped over there. And here is where I built a village with my sister’s blocks and then destroyed it with a Noah-like deluge from the garden hose.
How could so much fun have been crammed into this small suburban yard? How could a child’s imagination be so wide and untamed? Clearly, the backyard of my memory is more of an endless field than a suburban plot.
Such is the blessing of being a child.
As I looked about on my visit, the yard seemed — I don’t want to say smaller — more manageable, better able to meet the present-day needs of my parents. My father’s square-foot garden — the one that took the place of the pool — is now a patch of lavender. Farming efforts are confined to a couple of tomato plants growing in pots and his prized pear and apple tree.
My mother’s beds that once held annuals are now full of perennials.
Sprinkled throughout are a mother’s touches — fanciful, whimsical outdoor adornments. Some were store bought.
Some were handmade by Mom in her ceramics class.
And some were nearly as old as me.
These are the comforts of home. These are the comforts of a garden. These are the comforts of memories.