I can’t help but put out another set of ramblings about my dad. It is the time of the year that he liked the best because it was time to put in the garden. I have written a number of times about how I am NOT a garden person, but I can’t help but remember Poncho and his passion this time of the year. I have a lot of memories of his garden. Some of those memories are pretty special and some still make my back hurt.
When my father was alive, he prided himself on having the best garden in town. He worked from dawn until dark in his garden and while it wasn’t very large, I have to admit people came from all over town to admire the quality of the veggies in Poncho’s garden. When I was a kid, it seemed I spent my entire youth picking rock, weeding, watering, and pulling weeds in that plot of ground and hated every minute of it — that is until the time came to be able to eat the season’s efforts.
I can remember when I was quite young pulling two fresh tomatoes off the vine and handing one to my dad and we would then sit down across from each other at the picnic table in the backyard. He would take a salt shaker out of his back pocket, take a bite out of his treat, pour salt over the wound, and hand the shaker to me. I would repeat exactly what I had just witnessed and we would sit in silence eating our tomatoes thinking about what we accomplished that year and what was in store for us during the next growing season. Eventually, the conversation would start and we would talk about a lot of things. To me, this is high on the list of life’s simple pleasures and I cherish those memories.
As a number of young men my age, the taste of fresh vegetables wasn’t confined to just our garden as several of my friends and I would wander around after nightfall and look for other gardens that may have things to share. The owners of those gardens weren’t necessarily ready to share the fruits of their labor which is why we did it at night. We occasionally would find ourselves staring at a flashlight beam and what looked like a gun barrel. No one ever took a shot at us (well, almost no one), but we did get caught every now and then, and would have to spend a week working in their garden to make up for the mischief we caused. We swore we’d never do it again, but until our interests turned in a different direction (still soft and fresh, but you didn’t have to wait for the fall to go looking for it) we continued to check out the town’s garden crop.
I know we all have our own set of special memories that come to mind for various reasons. Maybe watching someone walking their small child triggers your own fond memories of walks with your own kids when they were young. Maybe a certain song on the radio comes on and you can’t help but flash back to another place in time when you were experiencing a life’s simple pleasure. I will bet you smiled as the song played and if you were alone, you probably sang along for a while.
I believe we would all have a better time if we could focus more on life’s simple pleasures. Not necessarily remembering times past, but creating memories today we can use in the future. I try to do that all the time. I have been taking my grandson fishing over the last several weeks when we can and while we haven’t caught many fish, it has been fun to get out with him. My bride (who does love to garden is chomping at the bit to get her greenhouse up and perhaps this fall I will be sitting down with her and the grandson with some red juicy tomatoes, a shaker of salt, and the opportunity to create our own simple pleasures. I do think I’ll keep the stories about my evening exploits as a young man to myself, though, for a little while longer.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.
Image credit: Alice Henneman