My grandfather kept a small garden when I was a child. He grew tomatoes and yellow peppers. We made a trip of going to the garden center each spring to gather soil and fertilizer. We would wait until each Mother's Day to plant the seeds. I grew so accustomed to this routine that I assumed that was the actual purpose of Mother’s Day. When I was 8, I woke up on planting day and ran down the stairs exclaiming “It’s tomato day! It’s tomato day!” My family never lets me forget that.
As the plants grew, I would be responsible for collecting the ripe fruit. However, I ended up eating most of the cherry tomatoes right off the vine. My family pretended to be upset, but now I know they found it quite amusing.
As the years passed, my grandfather grew worn and sad. He stopped tending his garden and the patch became infertile. He lost his oldest daughter to the opioid crisis in the spring of 2015. He spent the next year in a deep depression. I was very worried about him. He stopped doing things he enjoyed. His health fell. His patience became short. The weight of grief was killing him.
The following spring, years after our last tomato garden, I decided to restart to tradition. In secret, with the help of my other family members, we tilled the old growing patch, planted seeds, and cared for them until they grew tall enough to surprise my grandfather. He was very quiet when he first saw the new garden. We then presented him with a small stone, engraved with his late daughter's name. He placed it next to the tallest plant, which already began to grow green buds.
That summer he went out to care for the garden almost every day. He even let me eat the first ripe one. The next year, on Mother’s Day, my grandfather came down the stairs in the morning, and asked me if I wanted to help him plant more tomatoes.
Violet is a 20 year old studying Natural Resource Management in Pittsburgh Pa.
Photo by Michal Klajban from Wikimedia Commons.