Today would have been my Gram’s 94th birthday. When I was finishing my last year of college, I was laid off from my job and about a month away from being a homeless student. My Grandma offered to take me in so I moved into the old, spacious room in the basement that my dad and my uncle shared growing up. I really cherish the time I spent under her roof, sitting at her kitchen table, and really getting to know her.
When I moved out and didn’t visit as often as she’d like, she would tell me she needed her stairs vacuumed or some such chore and I would come over to take care of it for her. The thing is, as soon as I would arrive, she would convince me that I was much too tired from driving to do the work and that I should just sit for a while. After she wrung all the gossip out of me, and she reminisced on old times and told stories, it would be too late to do anything and I would just have to come back another day. She was a tricky old lady. I was on to her game though.
Now my Gram wasn’t much of a gardener. At least not that I knew of. My Gram was a great cook instead. She did have a pretty good garden story though and one that she often told while sitting at that kitchen table wearing a brightly colored silk moo-moo, martini in hand and gazing out at beautiful Lake Washington in the distance.
Gram had discovered a pretty tomato plant in her basement one afternoon. Now, as a northwest gardener, I know just how important sun is to tomatoes. The little cherry ones do pretty well, but big tomatoes need a LOT of sun. Gram knew this as well because she scooped up the plant, whisked it up the stairs and then out onto the front lawn for maximum sunlight. I imagined her smiling while imagining all the wonderful things she would cook with those fresh globes.
The next day, she found the tomato plant back downstairs in the basement. Someone had moved it. So again, she scooped it up and out it went into the sun. This process repeated itself for many aggravating days. Out into the sun. Into the basement. Out into the sun. Back into the basement. And once again back out into the late 1960s afternoon sun.
It took a little while until she discovered that her youngest son was actually hiding the plant in the basement. It took her only a little while after that to discover that it wasn’t a tomato plant at all. Dad wondered why the plant kept ending up outside. Gram…well I supposed she just got mad, but she sure laughed about it later.
I have no idea what happened to that plant, but I’m sure it didn’t see daylight again. It probably didn’t see the basement again either.
Now when I grow (or try to grow) tomato plants, I remember her story. The sound of her voice emerges from my memories and I can hear her laugh and it makes me smile. I can’t wait for the ground to warm up and the sun to shine around here again. Soon it will be time to plant again.
I miss you Gram! Happy Birthday!!