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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: Living under the curse
By Michelle Vander Wal


Mom hates weeds. I mean really hates them. They remind her of sin.

“God put weeds in the ground after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden,” Mom would say with a violent stab at an offending dandelion root. “And I’ve been pulling them out ever since.” This last statement was accompanied by a piece of vegetation sailing into the waiting wheelbarrow.

I liked gardening. Mom would patiently name all the plants, often in the botanical Latin, if she knew it. Mom was a nurse and her medical training assured her that everything was more properly addressed in Latin. Every perennial had a story. I don’t think Mom bought plants. They were all donations or gifts from someone else’s garden. There were also a few clandestine specimens that she dug out of the “ditch” along a country road. Mom was the only person I knew who kept a shovel and pail in her trunk in case she came across an unprotected and “unclaimed” flower.

We also had a large vegetable garden. Weeding was our chore as kids. Dad planted the garden and then proceeded to ignore it all summer. Mom would send us out with our weeding orders every two weeks or so in order to make sure that her bean plants weren’t choked out of existence. “Just like in the Bible!” she would exhort us as we trudged out in our rubber boots. Trying to counter this with the parable of the wheat and the tares only got comments that we should know by this point that wheat is not a vegetable. Mom was in charge of harvesting, canning, freezing, pickling and other assorted tortures that vegetables went through in order to be preserved.

I detested weeding the vegetable patch. Everything grew bigger and faster than in the perennial bed. Probably because Dad lavished it with composted chicken manure, guaranteed to make anything grow. It is not as satisfying to finally kink your back into an upright position, look at your work and see a straight row of green. Flowers just seem to be more grateful. After the weeding came the hoeing. This exposed roots so that they perished in the relentless sun and it loosed all the dirt we had compacted. Of course, the worst part was you had to do it again in a week or so.

Mom liked harvesting the best. I think she felt she had won a significant spiritual battle by wresting fruit from the soil, despite the weeds. She peeled and shucked with enthusiasm, the canner steaming on the stove, the smell of blanched cauliflower hovering in the air. Our depleted deep freeze quickly filled up and the canning cupboard once again glowed with yummy shades of tomato, peach and pear. By the end of October we were done, the garden was plowed under, the perennials were cut back and the spring bulbs had been planted with the eternal hope of renewed life. Every weed had been picked, hacked and destroyed so that they did not get a chance to plague our lives next year. I guess that why it’s called a curse, because they come back anyways.

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This article has been read 594 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 09/16/06
This was written with an authentic voice, gently humorous.

Since you mention your mother a few times, I'd have like to get to know her a bit better--we learn what she liked, and what she dislike, but not why--you had enough words left over to give your mother more personality.

A well-written reminiscence.
Birdie Courtright09/19/06
I love your description of your mom's gathering her garden from friends and roadsides. Thanks for sharing.