Springtime in South Central Alabama heralded a joyous time for me in my youth. Being cloistered inside the farm house during the coldest days was far too constrained. Oh, I ventured outside on the cold days, but spring with its riotous colors, warming temperatures, returning birds, monster bumble bees, brilliant blue skies, softly scented moonlit evenings, was a sensory delight in a plethora of ways.
Now was the time for the spring garden. My parents would get busy as soon as the soil warmed enough for the sowing to begin. They would till up the soil that had been enriched with cow manure from our stables. The garden was a paradise of greens like turnips and lettuce. Mother even cooked the green tops of the radishes with the turnips. There would be rows of green onions. They would be chopped, mixed in corn meal dumplings and dropped in a bubbling pot of turnips. Carrots filled a whole row. Momma was usually so proud of her crop of English peas. These would be shelled and cooked with new potatoes from the garden. My favorite was the strawberry patch. One year I was banned from the berries, because I ate so many there were none left for anyone else or for Momma to make her strawberry short cake which would be served with rich whipped cream.
This year, as the 20 anniversary of my Momma’s death approaches, I am filled with sweet nostalgia of that simple, innocent time in my life. A few months after my mom’s death I wrote a poem in honor of her memory …
The First GardenDear Mother, I miss you in every season
but in the spring I miss you more.
As for your departing, sometimes I forget the reason …
yet I cannot linger long for the garden is in need of the yearly chore.
Dear Mother, I see you in your garden of the spring
as you genuflect in the age old ritual of the mysterious union of seed and soil.
I dream myself in the garden of my soul as I hear the nightingale sing.
Come morning when the eastern fire is lit, the garden always,
forever awaits my daily toil.
Dear Mother, I wonder with a child’s delight,
as I behold the wondrous beauty brought forth from the land.
Do you have a magic genie of the night?
Or is this the work of your hand.
My dear Mother, did you always know?
The answer is in the spring. It is a simple plan.
God’s hand in our hands continually show
We must never fail to recreate the first garden of the land.