As a kid growing up in Salt Lake City, I lived down the lane from my grandparents. My dad’s mom, who we called Maurie, was the quintessential grandmother. She was always attired in a dress and stockings. Some days when she was home working, she would wear a “house coat.” I never saw her wear slacks. She was kind, and round, and always smiled when I would visit. I can still see her, bent over in her garden. She would rise up to see who was approaching at the sound of “Hello, Maurie.” I loved my Maurie and I was very close to her.
My grandfather, on the other hand, was a bit of a curmudgeon. We called him Guggie — a nickname that was bestowed on him long before I arrived on the scene. I knew Guggie loved me, as he did his many grandchildren. But being around him grew tiresome as a young kid. Most of the time, Guggie wanted to discuss religion — it was thick. There were several other grandchildren who walked a wide circle around him — so as not to be drawn in to his hourly sermons. He never engaged me like Maurie did. Maurie always asked about school. She wanted to know what my friends were up to. And later, she followed my budding career as a journalist. Guggie and I just didn’t seem to bond.
That was until one, sunny spring day, I found myself in the garden with him.
Guggie and Maurie had several gardens on their property and on this day he was planting potatoes in the front garden. He explained the seed potatoes to me and how I had to take special care in planting them just right. Way back then, he practiced the deep mulching technique that is so popular today. We conversed back and forth, talking about potatoes, soil and watering. I remember him inviting me to harvest the potatoes with him in late summer. It really was the first time I connected with my grandpa on something other than religion. Or, maybe to some, gardening is a religion. Whatever it was, it was nice to finally see him as something or someone other than an evangelist.
I have to hand it to my grandparents — both sets. They all instilled a love of gardening which has lead to my interest in living a more sustainable life. It’s interesting that gardening actually skipped a generation in my family. As adults, my mom and dad have never really gardened (except for some alfalfa production on my dad’s behalf).
Now, when I’m out in the garden, I meditate over Maurie, Guggie and my other grandparents, Papa Rand and Mimi Vi, (there wasn’t a run-of-the-mill “Grandma” or “Grandpa” in the bunch). I honor them for giving me the gift of gardening. I’ll always remember that day in the garden with Guggie.