Sunday, June 1, 2008

FIELD NOTES: Just a week ago, I wrote about planting a 'memorial garden'...

June 1, 2008

...and it is in more ways than one, not just as my Memorial Day ritual, but as a memory of many things - of earth, of my maternal grandmother and even of me. I have a habit of gardening in flip-flops. I do end up destroying them which is why I sigh to myself when I’ve forgotten to slip out of my good flip-flops and into the two dollar ones from the drug store. I don’t do it on purpose, I run out just to do water maintenance and, before I know it, I’m pulling a weed which turns into a hundred weeds. My nails fill with dirt and dinner is delayed, but no matter, it’s summer and dinner can be eaten at eight without much consequence. And that is the memorial to my grandmother who, in the days before jellies and crocs, fashioned her own backyard footwear out of flip-flop bottoms and ruffled elastic lace from the five and dime store because she did NOT like a thong between her toes. She trimmed her toenails with a pocket knife that fascinated and startled me at the same time and her size six shoes were just right for little girls to play dress-up with. I remember her feet brown with soil from walking around her make-shift gardens – the sunny strip behind the garage where green beans crawled and horseradish, rhubard and sour grass for schav (Polish sorrel soup) squatted wherever they could and at the end of the hedgerow atop the steep bank were tomato plants or little cukes in old metal tubs. By memory or design, I pretty much grow the same stuff. And my feet sink into the soft fertile earth, my toenails fill up with garden dirt and I swing my feet, one at a time, into the bathroom sink to scrub them. It would be easier to wear sneakers or garden boots, but it wouldn’t feel nearly as good, it wouldn’t have that glorious connection to ancestors, to earth…to me. It happens to be my fiftieth birthday…and it feels good.

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