Family Gardening Memories

One woman remembers her family gardening memories with her grandmother and mother.

Cara Proehl And Labs

Carol Proehl’s labs, Maggie and Sally, are her gardening companions.

PHOTO: CARA PROEHL

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS’S Garden Essay Contest, titled “Why We Dig Gardening,” prompted many responses — here is one of our favorites!

Aunt Lou is my companion, recounting witty stories as I tend my plot. Soft meringue hair and moonstone eyes; artist and poet. I see her weathered red Formica counter and the “compost holder” that rested on it: a small cup that constantly spilled all manner of vegetable scraps. At 86, stooped with osteoporosis, she would putter out to her small garden and bury the day’s offerings with a broken shovel. This Depression kid didn’t throw away anything useful. Her tomatoes testified to their good upbringing.

Memories of family gardening, especially of Gram, are all about food and hugs. As a child, we were co-conspirators at the table, cackling and snorting at secret jokes. I would keep her company as she’d bake with my mother, watching her gnarled old fingers working the paring knife around an apple, producing one continuous, exquisite peel. Laughter filled the room as we constructed pies.

Later, Mom is with me as I tuck the seeds into their welcoming beds. We plot and plan what will be frozen and what will be canned, licking our chops. I see her facial expressions: concentration as she pushes the tomatoes into their jars, satisfaction as she inspects the finished product. Now, I grin happily at every “ping” that emanates from my cooling jars.

My labs, Maggie (yellow) and Sally (chocolate), make a looping orbit around me. They are the gardening goofballs, chasing frogs and stealing tomatoes. Performers, not farmers. I appreciate their show, basking in the warmth of both the sun and the presence of those who came before.

Cara Proehl
Columbia Station, Ohio