Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Beginning

It all starts at the beginning, doesn't it? How I've longed for the taste of a warmed-by-the-sun heirloom tomato eaten straight from the vine on a lazy, hot summer afternoon, where the only sound to be heard is the buzz of a honey bee as it roams from flower to flower ever since I can remember remembering.  As a young girl growing up in Portland, Oregon, I would toddle out to the garden in late Spring to watch my mother plant tomatoes.  She'd bury each one so far into the dirt that I thought it would disappear.  "It'll make the stock strong," she'd tell me.  I'd delight when the plant started to grow and claim its patch of garden.  As the little green fruits warmed to a brilliant red she'd pluck them in the heat of the afternoon, eating one as if it were an apple while she made her way to the kitchen with an apron full.  I'd climb up on a chair to stand beside her at the counter and watch her cut into the ripe bounty, the juice of the simple fruit floating onto the counter.  Thick, red round slices were carefully laid onto a piece of soft white bread, slathered with fresh mayonnaise.  Following the  slightest pinch of salt she'd place another slice of  bread on top.   Then she'd take a bite.  While she chewed she offered me a bit of the same heaven.  No worlds were ever exchanged.  It was as if time stood still. We'd eat that tomato sandwich in silence, smiling at each other with every bite.  I'll never forget it.  That simple time and the simple pleasure of sharing a taste only found the fruit from  the garden.  It defined my summers.

I've not always been so lucky in recreating the simplicity of that memory until one year when I planted a yellow grape cherry tomato in the garden strip running next to my driveway in the San Fernando Valley.  In the hectic swirl I called my life back then, I forgot to water it. But it didn't seem to matter. The little plant grew like a monster out of control until it reached smack dab into the middle of the driveway.  It mocked my neglect with its prolific bounty. At the end of the season I cut it back and forgot about it. But that tomato plant didn't forget about me!  By the next Spring it was back, slowly at first, reaching toward the sun and then it took off.  It seemed to grow two feet a day!  Within no time it returned to the middle of the driveway and I was relegated to parking curbside.  But I didn't care, I had killer tomatoes without a green thumb! 

And so the years progressed and the little tomato plant 'that could' kept dying back in the Winter and reaching for the sun when the days started to grow longer.  And then it all came full circle.  My two-year-old son ventured out to that driveway garden one hot summer day and discovered the tomatoes.  They were warm and ripe, waiting to be plucked from the vine and popped into the mouth.  He asked me what they were.   While I tried to explain their magic I showed him how to pick and eat them - right from the vine.  He thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever seen.  Soon we were plucking and eating the warm, sweet fruit, laughing in-between bites.  And there I was, now the mom, sharing with my son what my mother had shared with me. I believe the plant kept coming back just for that moment.  When summer ended I cut the plant back, but when Spring came it did not return.  And so it begins.  My new garden.  A much more intentioned effort from that sliver of dirt along my old driveway.  I'm a bit naive about the work ahead of me, but nonetheless enchanted by the possibilities, not to mention the chance to grow, experiment, share, delight and create memories. Come along for some fun, if you dare.  And if you're close by maybe you'll stop by for a tomato sandwich on a hot summer day. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I can taste the tomatoes of my youth. More please.