Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Grampa's Garden

Despite his having died when I was nine, I remember my dad's father fondly and well. He was a loving, affectionate grampa, always glad to hear what his grandkids were up to and he clearly enjoyed our company. My grandfather had a very traditional "Upstate New York Italian" house. I put that part in quotes because I don't know for sure that his home was anything like you'd find back in the little town outside Naples where his parents hailed from. I just know that his setup was quite common in places like the village where I grew up. For starters, you had to have a finished basement, complete with a fridge, stove, dining area, etc. This was where people hung out, for some reason I don't know. I think the upstairs was meant to be "formal," but when you had people over they went down in the basement. That practice wasn't too common at my grandparents' house by the time I was around, but I believe it was standard when my dad and uncle were kids. My parents' first house had a similar setup and they used it for any and all birthday parties and other events of that sort. Anyway, outside their house, you had a nice patio surrounded by a vegetable garden.

My grandfather took his garden very seriously. He grew tomatoes like crazy, plus zucchini, squash... hmm, I'm struggling to remember what else - there was a lot. I remember parsley, and I think I recall string beans (though that might have been my dad's garden). Eggplant, maybe? Hmm. Anyway, he grew so much stuff, that he had a root cellar dug off his basement to store it in. Then he built a screened-in porch over the root cellar. Some years after he died, the root cellar started to collapse and took the porch with it. I wasn't involved with the repairs, but to my recollection they were extensive and involved filling in the root cellar.

Anyway, it was a lovely garden, I remember that. He had these large, rectangular pieces of slatestone that made a U-shaped path through the garden. These were handy because when my dad got the roto-tiller and turned over the soil every year (yeah, just because it was grampa's garden doesn't mean he did that stuff himself - that's what he had sons for!), the stones could be moved out of the way. They were nice colors, too - grays, purples, rose-reds. When the garden was in full-bloom, you could walk that earthy path and be surrounded by lush  leaves and stems, the mottled green zucchinis and bright red tomatoes lounging indolent in the sun.

Grampa had a pear tree, too. It grew up where the garden began, beside the broad concrete patio. That was, in turn, behind the detached two-car garage with its heavy wooden staircase that raised and lowered on a pulley. The pear tree had a mate in the next yard - Mr. Bellucci's place. Mr. Bellucci had a garden, too. It wasn't laid out as nicely as my grampa's, but it was every bit as big. Their pear trees cross-pollinated each other. My grampa's, the smaller tree, survived him for several years, but nobody tended to it the way he had. Eventually it grew gangly and diseased and then it died. Mr. Bellucci's tree stopped producing fruit after that - it could live without its mate, but it couldn't make the luscious, juicy pale yellow pears anymore. I remember thinking that was sad. I still rather do, I suppose.

I remember that garden, its patio, its brick oven (that I only ever saw used for roasting marshmallows) and its fruit trees. I remember it fondly, as a place of lush tranquility in the summer. Now I've got my own yard, my own garden. I'm thinking about getting some fruit trees, but only if I can find dwarf ones that are small enough that I can care for them properly. I wouldn't say I really get the same sense of peace in my garden that I had in my grandfather's. Perhaps that's because I was a little kid and it was easy to find peace wherever I was - I was always safe, cared for and loved, with no long-term worries or cares. Or, perhaps, grampa's garden was just a special place whatever age you were. I'd be okay with that. Recreating that magic thirty years later gives me something to strive for.


  1. Millers Nursery in Canandaigua,NY has excellent little dwarf fruit trees. You can order online, you don't have to drive out there. I just got a couple more dwarf peach trees last week.

  2. Hey how come my Moose doesn't show up under followers, but it does when I post a comment?

  3. It shows up for me on the list of followers, but I've seen some odd behaviour (like Karen's duck showing up on her site and my site, but not on Vicki's site, at one point). Whenever I've seen problems, it's always seemed to clear up on its own eventually.