There are many things that I look forward to in the summer months, and fresh veggies and fruit are top of the list. There is something about the taste of that first picking of green beans and cucumbers that words just can’t describe. You have to taste the perfectly cooked green beans with a side of sliced cucumber, accompanied by either a hot biscuit or wedge of cornbread. Add a glass of iced tea or even my favorite buttermilk, and you will swear you’re in Heaven. It’s truly a treat.
Although I grew up learning how to plant a large vegetable garden, it has been many years since I have grown anything of my own; vegetable or otherwise. My taste buds don’t really care about that and still have me craving the new summer crops, just like I did when I was a kid. When I was a little girl, it was not unusual to sit outside on a warm day with a salt shaker in hand and eat tomatoes till I thought I would burst. Still, to this day, my favorite thing to have during the summertime is a juicy, homegrown tomato!
The great thing about growing tomatoes, there are always plenty. It almost seems like you will never run out! My Mama would bring them inside, and they would be placed on the kitchen window sills. Even the back porch, living room, bedrooms, and bathroom window sills were filled. We would have so many tomatoes hanging out in the widows that I imagine someone who didn’t know what was going on would think we were crazy. But my daddy was particularly proud of his “organic” tomatoes and didn’t want even one to go to waste. I remember him saying what a shame it would be to let just one spoil. Mama agreed. You probably realized we didn’t have air conditioning back then, and the windows were always open. Haha.
Mama would “can” as many tomatoes as she had jars to do so. She placed the whole tomatoes into boiling water just long enough to make it easy to remove the peel. Then into a sterile jar, they would go. In a few days, jars upon jars would be sealed and ready for their rightful place in our dirt basement. She would also make and can tomato juice. Later on, those tomatoes and juice would be used in the winter months to make vegetable beef soup on a cold day. I still remember how good the house would smell when I got home from school on a brisk day, and a pot of Mama’s soup would be simmering on the stove. I couldn’t wait to have a bowl of that steamy deliciousness. I still make that recipe to this day, but the tomato part never tastes quite the same.
Since my daddy became unable to garden and grow his tomatoes many years ago, I have not had nary one that tasted as good as his. Not even close. Every year I search the entire summer for a tomato that maybe will be as good as Daddy’s. I never even get close to finding one. No doubt the fresh, homegrown ones are definitely better than store-bought. But none have ever tasted like Daddy’s. I wonder if he had a special secret to growing his tomatoes that only he knew about. Or maybe it’s just me and my longing to have my dad back in my life somehow, even if it comes by way of a tomato.
I will probably continue to search yearly for the best tomatoes, fruits, and veggies. Maybe I will give 5-gallon bucket gardening a try next year. Heck, that’s one of the best parts of summer! Unless you can still grow your own. Now that would be wonderful.
🎡 Every morning, I quietly get out of bed, trying not to disturb my wife’s sleep, slip on my clothes and head down the hall to the coffeepot waiting patiently in the kitchen. I press the “Start” button twice. It begins its steady progression to 210°, the same temperature that Starbucks uses for coffee (the night before, I carefully measured the coffee that went into the basket and the amount of water to use). I then head to our bathroom to wash my face, comb my hair and shave.
Each morning, as I stare into the mirror, I search for the 18-year-old me, the young guy who wallowed in the richness of life and all the potential it offered. And worried about nothing. Content with whatever came his way. I can tell he is still in there somewhere because I sometimes see glimpses of him, and then he’s gone. I miss that carefree guy, and sometimes I try, with little success, to emulate him.
Instead, what I see in my mirror is a guy way past his prime, with quite a few well-earned lines scattered willy-nilly across his face. His eyes are still a deep brown, with a hint of glint, indicative of an optimistic view of his future. The 18-year-old me believed there were only better days ahead. The person I am today is just trying to hold on to what he has, knowing the potential for unwanted issues lies just around the corner.
Practically, I know that young man will never return, that it’s a pipe dream to contemplate such a thing happening. However, it still gives me joy to know that he’s in there, somewhere, and that he allows me to see him now and then. I like what Michael Altschuler said, “The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.”
🎡 From all appearances, winter is over; daffodils, tulips, and forsythia are in full blossom. There are buds on all the trees. My wife is busily working in her flower gardens, as happy as one could be. I love to watch her work with the beautiful things that grow around our home. She has a natural touch with plants, and, in her presence, their goal is to impress her with their splendor and magnificence. Some people have the proverbial “Green Thumb,” but most of us, I suspect, do not. My father was a talented gardener because we always had plenty to eat of whatever he put in the two or three of his gardens each year. I tried my hand at it when I was in my fifties and quickly learned that my thumb was not the right color.
We have a section in our retirement community called the “Funny Farm,” where residents can have a small plot to raise vegetables. I have not reserved a plot because I neither have the time nor patience for such an endeavor. Knowing we could buy a tomato for less than the cost of raising one also factored into it. We often walk by the “Funny Farm” and always admire the gardens that grow there. Ahhh, this would be a perfect place for my dad and grandpa to retire. George Washington said it best: “For it is a fixed principle with me, that whatever is done should be done well.” I somewhat agree with old George. I also realize you might’ve thought the name of our retirement center was “Funny Farm” 😊.
🎡 The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has started, and it is always one of my favorite times of the year. I am an ACC fan, but I also pull for Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Those three teams have family connections, so we always cheer for them to win. There have been some disappointments, with Kentucky (#2 seed) losing to Saint Peter’s (#15 seed) and Virginia Tech (#11 seed) yielding to Texas (#6 seed). But there are still a lot of exciting games to be played, and the tourney doesn’t end until April 4th. We get to watch some fantastic athletes dazzle us with their basketball prowess during that time. The experts say the best team in the tourney is Gonzaga, a small Jesuit University in Spokane, Washington. They have a powerhouse basketball team every year and always play well in the tournament. Since 2015, their earliest exit was in the “Sweet 16” in 2016 & 2018. They have never won the tourney. I’m sure my good friend Nancy B knows much more about the tourney stats, and I’m confident she watches more of the games. Her favorite team (Va. Tech) is out now, so some of the shine may be gone for her 😊.
I think it’s fun to watch the young play sports. As a young guy playing high school football and basketball, I never understood how the game fascinated the adults in our community. I now know they enjoyed the enthusiasm and excitement it generated. Humankind has always enjoyed games, back to the Romans and beyond. The primary motivation could be that games distract us from the plainness of our everyday lives, give us something to cheer for, and make life enjoyable. We always need that.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are but tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” Well said, Ralph.
🎡 Well, it appears as if we are in decent shape as far as containing our Covid-19 crisis. I noticed in today’s paper that recent daily cases are down to 29,650 in the USA. Sadly, we have lost 975,000 lives because of the pandemic, and worldwide, we have lost over six million lives. By far, the costliest tragedy in human life was World War II (1939-45). The total fatalities, including battle deaths and civilians of all countries in that war, are estimated at 56.4 million people. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been devastating. Still, it has not progressed to the use of nuclear weapons. If we get into a nuclear war with Russia, that total will pale in comparison. Life as we know it will be forever changed. As badly as I want our country to help Ukraine, I expect President Biden to refuse to get us involved to that point. Vladimir Putin has revealed himself to the world as a despicable human being. After watching Hitler kill so many, people all over the globe vowed they would never sit idly by and let it happen again. But the risks are too high, the Russians have weapons that Hitler didn’t, and they are much deadlier. There will be no winner in this war. The citizens of Russia should have maintained the term limits of their president. Not doing so allowed him to become too powerful, which is never good. We can hope for successful peace negotiations: Ukraine agrees not to seek entry into NATO, and Russia stops its senseless bombing and pulls its army back to the borders before the war starts. I do not expect that to happen, but I would be grateful if it did. Unfortunately, what I suspect will happen is that Ukraine will eventually fall to the Russians, and guerrilla warfare will continue for years.
Sadly, as it appears, we can never confront a bully that has an arsenal of nuclear weapons for fear of him destroying our civilization. The possibility of a nuclear war before Russia invaded Ukraine was close to zero. Now, we are much farther away from that number, enough to have the entire world’s population on alert to a potential tragedy. As Jack Kornfield said, “Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.”