only clue we needed was the brown paper bag. It was usually in
the backyard, placed on the corner of the deck that surrounded
kids on a summer day, falling out of the car and racing to the
back door. Mom usually trailing the group from the driveway… Dad
occasionally, and both parents every so often.
and Pepe were here!” came the cries.
scene played out multiple times each year. Not at all common,
but frequently enough that the kids were never surprised to see
the bag, and actually reached a point where any of us might be
looking specifically for it.
getting the left behind items in her hands straightened out so
she could find the key for the door, would reply the same way
each time: “How do you know?”
always, it was that brown paper bag.
filled with tomatoes and cucumbers. And once we pointed it out,
the reasoning was obvious. Meme and Pepe had indeed stopped at
the house earlier.
grandparents had a garden each year. I’m guessing they had other
vegetables, but try as I might all I can recall are tomatoes and
lived about a forty-minute drive away. Not bad. Not bad at all.
But between school for the kids and full-time jobs for the adults,
it was far enough. We’d see each other often, but not necessarily
regularly, if you can follow the difference.
things about those younger days… they were different.
one thing, people went out for drives. Weekends. Nothing planned.
A few hours in the car. Long drives. Get away and see something
new. Perhaps—just perhaps—a restaurant or such would be picked,
and then off you’d go. No real time for having to get there. No
real route set in your mind. Just hop in the car and drive. And
when—perhaps—a destination became involved, that might be the
factor in deciding if you were headed north, south, east or west.
another thing, technology didn’t contribute in any way. Long distance
phone calls were more expensive than gas. (I know… sounds crazy…
find someone over the age of fifty and ask them about it. In my
childhood, if you dared pick up the phone and dial a “1” before
following it up with ten more digits, you’d better have a darn
good reason for doing so.) A GPS unit at that time was actually
the pairing of a folding map from AAA and an Arrow Street
Guide in the glove compartment. No cell phones. No texting.
our little story today about my grandparents and a bag of vegetables,
the idea of such considerations is simple enough… on their days
off, people relaxed by heading off on a bit of a drive, and for
a casual drive they normally didn’t call ahead to check and see
if you were planning to be around.
result? Although not at all a common event, it did happen that
Meme and Pepe would arrive unannounced at the house. And, there
were occasions when their arrival was timed to find nobody home.
just got back from the front door of the neighbors’ house. Paul
and Karen. We have a fun little battle going on. Terry and I are
working with our first garden in years. We have been sharing the
results with our friends and family. A few weeks ago, Terry fixed
a basket of assorted items (tomatoes, peppers and such), and I
dropped it off when I saw Paul out mowing the lawn. Perhaps two
weeks later I was off again (this time the regular garden items
along with an eggplant and some summer squash).
responded to my visits and our gifts by returning our baskets
to us… filled with plates of homemade cookies. She snuck over
while Terry was out and I was mowing the lawn. I walked into the
garage, saw some baskets I didn’t remember, and when I looked
inside… cookies. Nicely played.
I dropped off a few more vegetables and freshly baked zucchini
bread. (Your move, Paul and Karen. (I kid. It’s not their move…
and we’ll get to more about that in a second. But in a funny twist,
Karen responded to news that she should check her front porch
by saying that a family friend dropped off some fresh garlic they
had grown, it was too much for her and Paul to use, and she’d
be stopping by soon with some for us. So… yeah… the exchanges
I want to get back to though is that bag of vegetables from my
grandparents. And I want to lead it into the baskets shared with
neighbors. Because for me, that’s been the most fulfilling part
of the garden. The connection with others… family and friends
and genuine expressions of kindness that work in both directions.
I absolutely love heading into the back yard in the morning, finding
one or two vegetables that are ready to pick, and deciding what
to make for lunch of dinner based on the discoveries. BLTs. Eggplant
parmesan. Side dishes of butternut squash. Brilliant. Love it.
when I come into the house with a few colanders filled with that
day’s harvest, pass them off to Terry, and then she returns home
from work that evening with stories of people bringing tomatoes
and cucumbers from her office to the cafeteria to make their own
fresh lunch… that’s just magical. Same with the days when she
brings in loaves of zucchini bread.
you know when it gets the most magical? On afternoons such as
last week, when I stumbled across two plates of cookies in the
baskets Karen returned to us. Or, more specifically, with that
exchange that quietly offers appreciation between people.
and years ago, my grandparents would get in the car and head off
for an afternoon. And, while trying to decide on where to go,
it would have made plenty of sense to visit the grandchildren.
That would have been reason enough for the drive. But on some
summer days, with an abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers on hand,
they provided themselves with a bit of extra reasoning. And that
makes me smile.