Daytime In The Garden Of Mom & Dad

Me and my sister by the vegetable garden -- a long time ago.

Me and my sister by the vegetable garden — a long time ago.

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.

Sandy Pix 1

A piece of the last remaining branch from one of the Blue Spruce trees that crashed down during Sandy.

A piece of the last remaining branch from one of the pine trees that crashed down during Sandy.

A new Blue Spruce was added to the new bed that Sandy made.

A new blue spruce was added to the bed that Sandy made.

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.

Tuberous begonia.

Tuberous begonia.



Tuberous begonia.

Tuberous begonia.

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.

Garden Ornament

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.

Dad's Garden



Don't tell the squirrels, but they missed the last remaining apple on my father's tree.

Don’t tell the squirrels, but they missed the last remaining apple on my father’s tree.

This relief from the late 1800s (?) once adorned the facade of a Brooklyn tenement that housed firefighters and their families.  My father is retired from the FDNY.

This relief from the late 1800s (?) once adorned the facade of a Brooklyn tenement that housed firefighters and their families. It now rests near my father’s shed.



My mother’s beds that once held annuals are now full of perennials.

Mom's Garden

Bee balm.

Bee balm.





The faded flowers of oakleaf hydrangea.

Oakleaf hydrangea.

Lamb's ear.

Lamb’s ear.

Sprinkled throughout are a mother’s touches — fanciful, whimsical outdoor adornments.  Some were store bought.

Garden Ornament

Some were handmade by Mom in her ceramics class.

Made by Mom.

Made by Mom.

And some were nearly as old as me.

Made by Dad.

Made by Dad.

These are the comforts of home. These are the comforts of a garden. These are the comforts of memories.

37 thoughts on “Daytime In The Garden Of Mom & Dad

    • Hi Maria. I spent a lot of time playing in that yard — and I loved my toys! The yard still looks great — smaller than I remember, but it’s home. Talk to you soon! (And thanks for a great day!)

  1. Wow! What a walk down Memory Lane! Watching you playing with those Tonkas and Matchboxes for hours on end, then you and your sister splashing around in the pool. Walking back to the “lower 40” to pick a cherry tomato and pop it into my mouth, it’s delicious aroma and juicy sweetness that was like candy to a teenage girl. Summer nights sitting out, hoping for the rustle of a breeze, star-gazing and loving my time with all of you – my vacation place. I have many fond memories of my extended visits. Thanks for bringing them all flooding back, Kevin! BTW, how did the squirrels EVER miss that apple?? Are they feeling sorry for “H” this year? :). Sending my love!

    • 🙂 Just be relieved/happy/overjoyed/ecstatic that I didn’t use the photo we have of you playing Marco Polo in that pool. I cherish the memories I have of your visits. As for the squirrels — they are hardly feeling sorry. I think they’ve pulled back and are plotting more devious ways to torture him. It’s all part of their plan for global domination.

      • A thousand times “Thank you!” for not posting that pic!! I’m very sure your readers appreciate that, as well!! As for the bushy-tailed rats of the world, you’re probably right – I never thought about their quest for global domination! I can see your dad standing there many times daily, just waiting to see one near that lone apple! It’s probably driving him crazy, just waiting for them to attack! Too much! 🙂

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  3. I loved every bit of this. It is very special to read about your history with gardening…growing up among gardeners and now one yourself. This year I have began my first garden… I have always been someone that has felt connected, very deeply connected with nature, I believe that is a huge reason why I began to have the desire to garden. My blog is about my first year managing my front yard urban garden, and all of my other musings from life, nature, and spirituality. I hope you can get a chance to enjoy reading it at I am looking forward to staying connected with your blog and soaking in the wisdom that you have to share. Thank you so much for sharing your childhood story with us. I love your dad’s art of the fish and the barbie legs… ha ha…. classic!

    • I’m so glad you found my site and that we’re able to connect. I’m so excited for you that you’re creating your first garden. Remember to have fun with it and to enjoy/learn from the process. I’m also popping over to your site. Be well!!

    • Hi Elaine. It’s funny that you mentioned the word buried. I worry that some future generation will find a lost city of Matchbox cars! Glad you enjoyed the memories. Be well!

    • Hi Alesia. Perhaps there’s a bit of retro inside all of us. We pull it out every so often, reminisce, and then back it goes for a mother nostalgic day. 🙂

  4. A very sweet story. Makes me remember how I too spent so many hours in the yard using my imagination when I was a kid and how the simple things like picking an apple off the apple tree was such a pleasant experience. Reminds me of really living in the moment, content with the simple, beautiful things of life. Oh those days in my yard, being a carefree child, in tune to the chirp of a bird, the fragrance of the flowers, the buzzing of bees and dry click of grasshoppers popping throughout the grass which was due for a mowing, and the garden….picking corn for dinner, and fresh tomatoes for a salad. I miss those days…mom calling me in for dinner, never being aware of time, just enjoying being a carefree kid. It’s good to stop in our busy lives and just breathe in the fresh air, bask in the sunlight, and look around at all those miracles painted on the huge canvas of our world……the landscape, the gardens and sky, filled with wonder.

    • Hi Rebecca. Thank you for your beautiful words. It seems that now more than ever we need those moments to breathe and to take in the simple wonders of our world. It seems as if we’ve lost a few things in recent times — but perhaps we can hold on to some of the things that were. Be well!

  5. I still maintain that childhood yards (and homes) shrink in the absence of the oversized imagination of the children who once occupied countless hours within them.

  6. Kevin, I enjoyed being so near to your parents’ home and a piece of your childhood. I am sorry that I did forget what they went through with Hurricane Sandy. I think we are so shielded from these storms here on the west coast that we tend to forget how hard it must be to tackle the rebuilding of a garden after such devastation. I still walk past the home where I had my first vegetable garden and I often think back to the little time capsule I buried in the side yard when I was probably around 10 years old. I would love to spend some time in that garden again–or either of my grandparents’ gardens. I am delighted you had this summer experience, Kevin. I’m watching my parents go from annuals to perennials, and choosing lower maintenance flower beds, but once a gardener always a gardener…with maybe a little adaptation thrown in. 🙂

    • Hi Debra. I hope I never grow tired or too old to enjoy getting my hands dirty. By the way, I think it may be time to dig up that time capsule — that would be a post!! I wonder what the ten-year-old you thought important enough to save. 🙂

  7. I wonder if those of us whose most cherished childhood memories involve being outdoors (often alone with our imaginations) are more likely to grow up to be gardeners. This was very evocative.

    • Hello Jean. It’s wonderful that you mentioned imagination. I often wonder about children in the digital age if there is such a thing as imagination. How can they make a fort from an old box when they’re accustomed to having a 3D image on a screen?

  8. What a great thing to be able to go back and enjoy your childhood home! I love the firefighter relief! A lot of what I remember as a kid were all the flowers growing wild in the woods. I wonder what it would be like to go back and to see how that old place compares to childhood memories. That was several states and houses ago, though, so I am just content with memories.

    • Hi Indie. I’ve had the chance to go by other areas from childhood — and things have changed (many of them paved over). What I enjoy about my parent’s garden — and all gardens — is the chance to see the gardener’s personality. My parent’s garden is truly them. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  10. Lovely memories Kevin. My first teacher was my grandfather, in the garden and in life. He lived 92 years and had the most amazing “subtropical” garden: from poppies to pawpaws, capsicums to cacti. These are such heartwarming memories – hope you enjoyed the weekend 🙂 cheers, Flavia.

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