My paternal grandmother was a master gardener, a gift she handed down to her only child, my father. The “green fingers” or “green thumb” expression came into existence in the 1930’s and would apply to both mother and son. Their ability to grow varieties of flora or foodstuffs wherever they dug their trowel into the earth was uncanny. But planting and growing was more than a utilitarian exercise.
Just as an architect would dream of spaces of beauty, so the creative natures of my father and grandmother would design unexpected pockets of beauty spaced throughout their miniature landscapes. I say unexpected because both mother and son enjoyed the element of surprise when they rounded a corner and came upon a beautiful cluster of blooms they had planted earlier now exuberant with color and shape.
Once my parents got their children educated, employed, and married off, there was money to invest in the yard. I would drop by and find Dad in the backyard, on his hands and knees digging, planting, or harvesting, his body wet with sweat, his hands and fingers dirt caked, always eager to give me a tour and pick a bouquet for me to take home to Kay. Years ago, I cast Dad as the Gardner in a production of “The Secret Garden” for Nightingale Theatre. The show ran for two weeks at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Perfect casting. Perfect location.
This spring as Kay and I work up our garden, and I bump into the artifacts inherited from my grandmother and my father, or as I hear the squeals of pleasure from our grandchildren running along the garden paths or playing in the fountain or chasing after the butterflies, and watch with joy as they marvel in wonder at the magic spin-wheel cups on the weather vane catching the wind and twirling through the sculpted holes or as they jump from rock to rock with an occasional misstep that draws blood and tears and requires Band-Aids and comforting words, or listen to them conversing with the statue of St. Francis, or traversing the stone border wall as if it were a balance beam, or racing their bicycles like daredevils down the ramp they have constructed from the large stone steps, I know they are storing up rich and fertile memories.
I am confident that the memories of our two daughters are chockfull of wonderful moments of time spent in their grandfather’s garden. They now have their own gardens that they lovingly tend and nurture. This is a blessing handed down to the third and fourth generation.