My Mother’s Garden

February 12th, 2013 posted by W. Bruce Cameron

I can’t think of anything that would tempt me to try to grow a vegetable garden. In my opinion, if God had intended people to be gardeners, he wouldn’t have invented drive-thru windows. Certainly I, of all people, shouldn’t be entrusted with raising the food supply–I not only don’t have a green thumb, I have, I’m convinced, “toxic fingers.” I speak from some experience: When I was growing up, my mother always planted a garden in our backyard, and I was recruited to help her despite my protests that (a) I didn’t like vegetables, and (b) I was pretty sure I was coming down with an appendicitis. “I need you to pull the weeds,” she’d state firmly. I told her this was unfair: Why should the poor weeds die so something as loathsome as broccoli could live? Maybe, if just given a chance, these lowly, unappreciated plants would bear a fruit of their own! Shouldn’t we just let things take their usual course, without our intervention? What were we, anti-nature? My mother ignored my passionate arguments in favor of sloth. She was raised before the invention of television, and couldn’t shake the ludicrous conviction that her children were supposed to contribute something toward the welfare of the family. She was also in love with vegetables. She was particularly mad about zucchini, which she felt could be substituted for real food. Grill a thick slice of zucchini–it’s as good as steak! Cut up a bunch of zucchini bits to go on top, and you’ve got steak and mushrooms! One time, though she always denies this, she put a bunch of zucchinis in cardboard boxes in the backyard and told the kids we were at the zoo. I despised everything she grew, though when I discovered what happened when I loaded a cherry tomato in my slingshot and plastered my friend Drake in the center of his T-shirt, I experienced a joy so pure I almost passed out. At dinner, when served grilled zucchini on a bun with a thick slice of zucchini (hamburger with tomato), I twisted my face into an expression of agony, clutched my stomach, and fell to the floor. “You haven’t even tasted it,” my mother snapped. On the floor I glared at my dog, who watched without pity. My pet had bailed me out of countless casseroles, but she drew the line at eating vegetables. “Get up here and finish your dinner,” my father commanded from his throne. The man would later fabricate a reason to run an errand and come back smelling like beer and bratwurst, but he had no compunction about forcing his son through the torture of a zucchini burger. Using my front teeth, which must have evolved just for this purpose, I took so small a bite it could only be described as a “shaving.” I immediately swallowed half my glass of milk, my parents observing all this with dark expressions. “I’m full,” I announced. “Eat!” Now I was in big trouble–it had become an issue from which my father could not back down without losing face. I needed to deploy emergency measures. “I saw the dog peeing in the garden!” I blurted, ignoring my pet’s shocked expression. No good. My dad took a firm bite of his own zucchini burger, only a slight flicker in his eyes betraying his revulsion. “Eat,” he ordered through his mouthful. I ate. Well, I chewed, anyway. Once it appeared that the prisoner had succumbed to this meal so cruel and unusual, my parents lost interest, and I began stealthily filling my napkin with soggy bites of zucchini under the pretext of wiping my mouth. “Juicy,” I commented appreciatively, which earned me a sharp glance from my mother, although she didn’t put words to her suspicions. By the end of the meal, I had a wad the size of a baseball to shove in my pocket. The dog attempted to draw my parents’ attention by sniffing pointedly at the bulge, but I dashed from the table before they noticed. Turns out, hitting Drake in the T-shirt with a wad of chewed zucchini was even better than using cherry tomatoes.

Copyright 2001 W. Bruce Cameron

W. Bruce Cameron (20 Posts)

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