Fresh tomatoes, buttery corn, cucumbers, okra, squash, watermelon, and so much more – the abundance of our Meridian, Lauderdale County, and Mississippi gardens, tended lovingly by their gardeners, enjoyed a green and lush growing season during the summer of 2013. There is great cause for thanks after the harvest. We are a blessed people.
At this time of year, my thoughts roam to times of childhood, when I was taught valuable life lessons during and after the harvest. I remember Aunt Eula – not my real aunt, but a sweet neighborhood lady, who asked me to call her “aunt” therefore she became closer to me than DNA, not that we knew about DNA at that time.
Aunt Eula lived next door in a small, white-frame house with a screened porch. There was a lovely flower garden in the front and a nice vegetable garden in the rear. When I gazed out our kitchen window, I could see Aunt Eula as she tended her gardens. I knew it was “gardening day” when I spied the large straw hat she always wore on those special days, and I knew a fun day was ahead, as she always included me.
Walking through her gardens, with spade in gloved hand, Aunt Eula talked to her plants as though they were old friends. “Good morning, Miss Pansy,” she cooed. “Now don’t you look pretty today?” I think the pansy could understand those sweet words, as the plant seemed to stand a little more erect and pose a smile, while enjoying the sun’s warm rays. Then, she called to me as she brought out my very own straw hat and gloves. It was a wonderful time.
As a five-year-old little girl, and as an only child living in a childless neighborhood, my window-peeking activities began my day. Momma was usually busy with household duties, so I would set my agenda for the day by first checking out Aunt Eula’s yard.
We pulled weeds in her gardens and she told me about the weeds in the garden of life. Then we gathered English peas, snap beans, okra, and tomatoes, and together (with Aunt Eula in the lead) we thanked God for the bountiful harvest. We cut lovely flowers and placed them in a vase inside her house by the big picture window in the living room, and Aunt Eula thanked God for the beauty in the world.
Each gardening day, after a hard morning’s work, I was rewarded with a piece of peppermint candy that was held in a crystal candy dish on the dark cherry wood table, next to the grandfather clock. One piece -- yes, one piece was enough, and I would look forward to the next time. As we settled in her big and comfortable living room chair, she read The Grit newspaper to me while we rested from our toil. The silence of her home was a comfort – no blaring TV or music, but only the sweet sounds of silence. Aunt Eula’s life was a quiet routine of work and play, a time for meditation, a time for family and friends, a time for church, and best of all, a time for me.
Many years have passed, but I can still close my eyes and slip back into those sweet summer days. I smell the fragrance of Aunt Eula’s gardens once again and as well admire the bountiful harvest. Yes, these days I thank God that He has blessed me so bountifully, and I’m certain Aunt Eula can hear me, as she tends her heavenly garden.
After the harvest so many years ago – the life lessons I learned as a child remain strong and constant in my life.
Note: This story was published, in part, in the March/April 2011 Mississippi Magazine.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website: www.annemckee.net