April 9, 2019 10:06:53 AM
My dad was a practical man and, out of necessity, frugal, too. He and mom raised six kids and although ours was a two-income home, neither mom nor dad ever made more then $8 per hour.
To supplement the family income, dad worked two, sometimes three jobs. One of those jobs was raising a garden and it wasn't your typical back-yard garden with a dozen tomato plants and a row or two of beans.
Nope, dad's gardens went far beyond that, supplying a wide variety of vegetables that stocked shelves of canned vegetables, filled not one, but two freezers, kept our neighbors supplied with fresh vegetables and still turned a nice profit on what dad sold to local grocery stores and restaurants.
My dad took enormous pride in that sprawling garden, and the sweat and work he poured into it kept our grocery list to a minimum.
Dad did the grocery shopping, too, with a heavy emphasis on what was on sale. There were no impulse buys when dad went shopping, much to my disappointment.
Dad and mom have both been gone for 15 years, but as it is with most people whose parents are no longer around, there are things we encounter that trigger memories.
For me, those memories come with spring-time.
I have noted my dad's practicality to point out one deviation from that practice in is his spring-time behavior.
In addition to the large garden, our modest little home was always ablaze in color during the spring and summer with the flowers dad planted each spring. To complement the roses he so carefully nurtured, dad spent plenty of winter hours poring over seed catalogs for new additions to the flower beds that wrapped around our home like a floral moat. He applied the same grand-scale approach to his flowers that he did do his vegetable garden. Go big: That was his motto.
It was the one thing, perhaps the only thing, that my very practical dad did that didn't promise some sort of financial benefit.
This week, we're getting our first real taste of spring, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s interspersed with the spring rains.
You will observe that traffic is picking up at nurseries as folks begin picking out vegetables for home gardens and, of course, flowers of all shades, hues and sizes.
I'm happy that so many people are like my dad in that respect. Nobody is going to make a buck out of begonias or dime off of dahlias or a penny out of petunias. They are planted purely for enjoyment, not only for those who plant them, but for neighbors to enjoy as well.
I believe firmly that houses adorned with flowers are homes of happy people. It's a sure sign of optimism, a certain symbol that the people who live in those homes value the beauty of our natural world.
Although the poet John Keats wasn't specifically writing about flowers, I do believe his lines from Endymion apply here:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
I am not much like my dad when it comes to vegetable gardens -- the long summer hours spent shelling peas or picking butter beans instead of playing ball or fishing is still accompanied by a sense of disappointment dipped in drudgery.
But it's different with flowers. Sure, you have to keep the beds weeded, but there's nothing to pick or shell. I can sign up for that.
Meet me in the garden department.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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