BellaOnline Literary Review
Keegan by KJ Ward

Non Fiction
"This one´s for you, my pet"

Mary-Anne Durkee

When I was a little girl (many years ago), I remember my Grandpa working in the garden. I always trailed after him, watching everything that he did, while my cousins played tag and other childhood games. He would carefully bend down, take some seeds out of his handkerchief with his knobby fingers, gingerly holding each one, and place it carefully in the soil. He would often give a sigh as he gently tucked the seeds snugly in their beds. I swear he talked to them, saying things like, "there you be" and "soak up the water." Also, "drink up the sun" and "grow tall and strong" or "flower brightly!" I know he said that.

Grandpa would work tirelessly in the hot mid-day sun, gently guiding those tomato plants to grow straight and strong. He would make sure no branch was fallen and forgotten. Sometimes, he would tell me I was like a tomato growing stronger and taller! I remember his rough hands lifting me to the sun where I could see the little yellow top blossoms smiling at me. We would walk in the fields, my grandpa, and me, not needing to say anything. He would lovingly touch the nearly ripe tomatoes, teaching me his ways, saying, "Oh, not yet, we must be patient for this gift."

Then, the days became longer and hotter, and Grandpa and I would gather baskets full of big and small tomatoes - red, yellow, green, orange, striped and every other color of the rainbow. I loved filling the basket, as I knew Grandma would prepare a feast with those precious tomatoes when we took them into the kitchen. Sometimes Grandpa would stop, squat down and call me to his side, holding his special pocketknife and carefully slicing open a juicy tomato, warm from the sun. He´d cut a perfect piece, just for me, dripping with juice, and say "You´re my pet, you taste this one first!" We´d taste and roll our eyes, never uttering a word in the sheer bliss of those shared moments in the sun. Today, when I close my eyes on a hot summer day, and as I touch my tomato plants and smell their perfume, I can almost hear grandpa say "This one´s for you, my pet.”

Now, those times are fond memories, as I plant my own tomato seeds. My granddaughter follows along with me, just as I once did with my Grandpa. She pauses with me to drop a seed in the tiny holes, covering them gently and speaking sweet nothings of encouragement to help those want-to-be plants grow. She tirelessly helps me water, tending to these babies eagerly, waiting, just as I did, for the very first ripe tomato.

Soon, the summer sun will arrive and stay, and my granddaughter and I will be eagerly searching for the first ripe, juicy tomato and share those magic moments, just as I remember sharing them with my Grandpa. We will pick our baskets full in the sun, while she dreams of tomato sandwiches and jam, and I know I will still hear my Grandpa whispering, “This one´s for you, my pet".

I know that one day my granddaughter will plant tomato seeds of her own. She will continue the generations-long process of sowing, growing, and harvesting that will sustain her life, and the lives of those she loves. Her planting will ensure the promise of joys ahead with her own granddaughter, as we continue to pass the “torch” of gardening from generation to generation.

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