February 12, 2017

The Garden of Feedin'

So I'm on this purge/organize journey expecting to complete this ongoing and somewhat overwhelming task by April 29, 2019. I'm on a five-year plan. Rome wasn't built in a day and I am trying to preserve my strength & sanity.

One project on the go is organizing photos. I have thousands of digital photos on the hard drive and no one told me just putting them in folders would not be good enough. Tag. You're it they said. So a-tagging I am. The second part of this nostalgic task is scanning and organizing all the photos my parents accumulated during their lives. This in and of itself is exhausting. Emotionally. I fear this will take the hardest toll on me but as my parents would instruct me, I "keep plugging along". 

If you're an emotional sap like I am, you'd be wiping your eyes going through these old memories too sometimes laughing until you cried. It's shocking at the feelings that arise when you go through "old things".  The warm, happy thoughts of "I remember that!" turn into damp cheeks as the realization hits my mind that so much time has passed and so many things have changed. The real kicker in this game? We have zero control over time passing and the world changing.

Today I came across photos of my parents working in the homestead garden. (My parents had a garden at home and a two larger gardens at their summer house as well). I can't even go into the amount of hard work that went into keeping two places and three large gardens.

Let me tell you, neither of my parents cared to be photographed while wiping the sweat from their brow but they always momentarily humoured my camera play. I had to be quick to get off a shot, let alone a decent photograph! Always seemed to be in-action shots. Their work never ended.

I love the photo of my mom posing in her cucumber patch in 1996 donning her "you must wear a hat in the garden" straw chapeau and swinging those "never be embarrassed of your body" sun-attractant ivory legs slathered with the highest SPF known to mankind.

So much of this photo has changed in a mere 20 years. The old asparagus patch is gone, covered with top soil and seeded over. The chain link fence now separates the yard from the laneway. The neighbours cut down the trees to make way for construction. This was so sad for me because my grandmother lived there until I was 14 (when she passed) and those were her trees. I'm also not an advocate of chopping down healthy trees just to build an object four times as big as you need. I guess the rest of the world is living large and I haven't caught up to that movement, nor would I ever strive to. Not to mention, when those trees were brought down, the hydro was out for quite a while as the "kids" laid a tree down on the hydro line. A $30,000 insurance claim. With a quiet chuckle I think "was it really worth killing those trees in the name of progress"? Apparently, the zip-zap fire show on the hydro line was just short of the Canada Day firework display.

But things change and life goes on. The one-old-tree/one-new tree family is one of my favourite neighbours. Ironically, when the storm brought down a big branch from my old Maple tree onto my hydro line last June, this same neighbour ran me a lifeline of electricity from his house, across the laneway and my garden up into my kitchen window - just so I could have power. For that alone, I continue to make them goodies. Yes. Things certainly do change.

When that photo was taken, sadly, my mom would only have three more summers to garden. She passed away on January 1, 2000. How she loved her garden. Of all the women I've known in my life, I've never seen any other woman work (and play) so hard and consistently. She seldom whined about the aches and pains that I know she must have suffered with or that the work was never-ending.

I've been working in her garden for 17 years now and there are times when I'm on my hands and knees in the dirt and I just know my mom is happy I'm there. I also know I don't measure up to her gardening standards, nor her work ethic but I enjoy playing in the same dirt that she worked in for 36 years. It's somehow very comforting to know that the same soil that falls through my fingers now is the same soil that fell through her fingers for so many years.

The 1992 photo of dear old dad in his tomato patch is a good laugh for me also. We would say back and forth "Look, there's a hoe in the garden! Well, our humour wasn't for everyone but what I wouldn't give to hear him crack just one more joke!

I'll never understand where my father found the energy to work all day for the man and come home and work outside until dark most nights. It's exhausting. Even I need to have a day off from it during the yard months. I know I inherited my work ethics from both my parents but I still don't possess half of the hard work gene that they had.

I can no longer see the houses out behind at ground level. There are fences, trees, shrubbery and a big garage built to block my view now - which is ok. Everyone is entitled to hide their fortress to block interaction with the world and its people although I've never had anything to hide which is evident in my very open yard. If that cold garage wasn't built there, the city would consider my request to have that portion of the non-vehicle traffic laneway closed off. Someone else's progress is my irritant and yet we must live and let live. Yes, so many things change in a quarter century. Perhaps people feel safer hidden away from reality.

I smile when I see the four long rows of tomatoes in the photo. Mom and dad didn't cut back on planting even after us brats were out of the house. We were all thankful for that. It was like Christmas opening up boxes of mom's care packages. I miss that so much. And each year I try my damnedest to cut back. Some inherited traits are harder to drop than others.

To me, it's amazing how two simple photos can bring up so many memories. One hysterical memory for me was way back when - I don't remember exactly. My mom came running into the house from the garden screaming "Someone shot me in the ass!!!" My dad looked concerned but just listened while my mom ranted about being bent over weeding the garden and being shot at. When dad couldn't hold it together any longer and just moments before my mom called the cops, my pops admitted that he was the one who took out the pellet gun and took aim at the ass in the garden. Thankfully, my mom had the same type of humour that my dad had. I don't know if I would have taken a pellet to the butt so lightly. Mom barely had a bruise and they both thought the incident was worth it as they shared that story with everyone who visited The Garden of Feedin'.

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