"I wish for [my daughter] the experience of that glorious, magical taste of summer that I experienced growing up."
by Tami Mohamed Brown
When I was very small, I used to eat peapods straight from a garden.
They taste best, someone tells me, when you eat them right away, unwashed.
Only a voice from my shorter, younger vantage point, I remember tanned legs in shorts and sandals. I can still see graceful fingers, hands larger than my own stripping the strings and pulling the green flesh away, extending several small round, rolling peas to me in her palm for me to take and eat; my hands, my mouth, open to the taste of sun, of dirt, of sky-of summer!
It's strange: The garden I remember, though I can't seem to recollect who the her in that story is any longer.
The gardener could have been almost anyone on my street, or down the block, or, quite honestly, just about anyone in the small northern Minnesota town I grew up in. I try to remember if it might have been the elderly woman next door who fed me zucchini bread, or the mother of a friend with her homemade juice popsicles. Or even the younger neighbor down the block, the one who sometimes babysat for me and who called me over to her yard to let me push the lawnmower for a bit or to drink a paper Dixie cup of lemonade with her on those lazy afternoons as I zigzagged barefoot down the summer streets on my zippy purple bike-un-helmeted and unattended, hair wet from running through lawn sprinklers or an afternoon of swimming at the lake.
As a pre-teen, my daughter is not allowed to roam too far outside alone. Too many what-ifs arise. I don't know the people down the block. I'm not even entirely sure of the new tenants who've just moved in across the hall that I've only seen coming and going, the ones who keep odd hours that haven't allowed me to introduce myself, yet. My daughter bikes with a helmet and closed-toe shoes and certainly doesn't take candy-or vegetables, for that matter-from the outstretched hands of strangers she encounters.
Still, I wish for her the experience of that glorious, magical taste of summer that I experienced growing up.
There's room for a garden in the stretch of space beyond the trees meant to separate our building from the townhomes just down the hill. I picture the neighbor kids stopping by to help weed and water, to tend the small patch of sunny dirt. In my dreams, I ask about this space, only to be told by a faceless voice of authority that the city zoning doesn't allow for it. And besides, adds the voice, wouldn't someone just steal the food that you intended for your own family? I try to explain that's not really the point.
Most days, instead of a summer harvest, we walk the three blocks to the supermarket, cloth grocery bags in hand. I remind my daughter to be cautious as we wait for the walk sign to blink at us, the signal that American Boulevard is now safe to cross.
She rolls her eyes at me. Speeding cars, busy streets, seatbelts-these are the things she really doesn't need to be reminded about. She has grown up careful.
It's funny. At home, too, we lock the door.
These days, it seems, nothing is to be trusted-the air, the sun, the dirt and water-they're all suspect too.
I open my cupboards, the freezer filled with foods that have somehow failed us in their need to fulfill. I'm hungering for something else. Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family. She recently acquired a community garden plot within walking distance (!) of her home and has planted, among other things, peas.