SHARED STORIES: My Mother's Garden

Vickie Williams spent her childhood in Louisiana.  This reverent essay on her mother’s garden is almost a prose poem. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Vickie Williams

The Roman poet Ovid once said, “A rested field produces a beautiful crop.” 

As winter would take hiatus and spring would unfold, according to the old worn almanac, upon the request of my mother old man Jim Tillman, in faded blue coveralls and sometimes in khaki uniform with bent brim hat, would bring plow and stubborn mule to break the ground for mother’s garden in our back yard. Perfectly carved, masterfully crafted rows for sowing seeds made a picture-perfect layout.

After sowing the seeds in fertile, dark Louisiana soil, little miracles would unfold gradually, slowly over time. Curiosity enticed me. Little green pinheads would pop up, so delicate and fragile at the start.

However, after incubating with time they would spiral, bud, bloom, flower, and take on shape, full form, and personalities. Vines would creep, crawl, stretch, and grow. Fresh, plump sun-ripe tomatoes and crispy, crunchy cucumbers were right at my fingertips.

Homegrown vegetables were always plentiful. Fresh string beans spiraled on bean post. Specked butter beans, fuzzy okra, banana squash, fire-hot red pepper for pepper sauce, turnip, cabbage, mustard, and collard greens grew in abundance.

Mother’s green thumb was magic. She watered and nurtured them; spoke to her plants as if they could hear her. “Give them tender care and love,” and in my mind’s eye they responded.
Early morning dewdrops tickled my toes, as I tiptoed through my mother’s garden. Intrigued by nature, watching seeds transformed mesmerized me. I grew to love the smell of early morning in my mother’s garden. 

It was my sweet spot hangout, playground, laboratory for insects and me. I loved to catch crickets, I played with earthworms, poured salt on snails, thumped red beetles, trapped any insect I could, and placed them in jars. 

My eyes roving here and there, peeping under vines, curious to see what I could find. Sometimes, I would find a spot on the ground and simply daydream.

Nature with blue-sky canvas brought me much joy. Mother would often ask me to pick vegetables for her out of the garden. It made me feel all grown-up, and setting at the dinner table made my efforts quite rewarding. Before the blazing sun appeared, it was fun time for me. Growing up, I never went hungry. We were poor, but I never knew it.