A Texas Childhood


Texas highways are bursting with the signs of Spring. There are fields awash with bluebonnets, poking their brilliant blue heads among the leaves as if a grand welcome to a big a country fair. There are daisies and Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers that only old people know the names of. And I’m okay with that. I like to say instead “why look at those pretty yellow flowers” even though I know they are only dandelions.

I’m proud to be raised here, in this land of freedom and independence. We carry both handguns and chewing gum in our purses, and use a lot of hairspray and double negatives. I was in particular thinking about how my family would all head to the Kerrville Arts and Crafts Fair when I was young, to listen to bluegrass music and look at all the handmade rolling pins and water pitchers painted with sunflowers. We’d gnaw on ears of buttered corn and wander around the booths, saying “what a pretty gemstone necklace” or “well isn’t this a cool picture of a cow.”

I had a great childhood, apparently filled with lots of rolling pins.

I wonder sometimes what my children will look back upon and remember. Am I the only one who wonders what legacy is set forth? Why just yesterday, we went to the garden to pick out some carrots and potatoes for our dinner, which we lovingly picked and cleaned and chopped and added to the pan. However, since I planted too late in the year, the carrots are only about the size of a pencil, the potatoes big enough for a large family of field mice. But I pretended we had enough and supplemented with vegetables I purchased at Whole Foods, hoping no one noticed. Will they remember nights of roasted chicken and vegetables, fresh from our garden? Dear God I hope so. Why else do I go to the trouble?

I think as parents we work so hard to create a world for our children that’s safe and happy, filled with trips to theme parks and birthday parties and nature walks through the woods. But what they want most of all are not memories of their mother listening to Lyle Lovett or singing loud or cooking sweet potato biscuits, but a place where they can be fully themselves. A place where they don’t have to look nice, be someone special, or meet some high threshold the digital world places upon them.

Kids want a warm place to rest their soul when it’s weary, so they can actually grow. That can be in the city, or in the mountains, here on our little stretch of Texas soil. And whether you plant your vegetables or buy them, kids don’t care. As long as they can curl up in your arms, and you tell them about how they were born and loved, about how wonderful they are to you, and how you’ll never ever leave, even when it’s hard. That’s home, regardless of what flowers are blooming in the fields or how large the vegetables. Because these kind of seeds are internal, rooted deep.  This kind of childhood provides a strong future for our children, evidenced by branches of love for others, gratitude for the earth, and thanks to God.

This is the childhood I want mine to remember. One where they eat loads of roasted carrots from Whole Foods and think I grew them.

My Gardening Adventures


So one day I woke up and decided I’d garden.  As in “how hard could it be / I know the location of the nursery / plants need water and fertilizer and I totally got this” type of thing.  Maybe I should have read a book on the subject first.  But seriously. Who has time for all that.


So I gleefully planted rows of peas, cantaloupe, watermelon, and tomatoes.  I planted zinnas and sunflowers, peppers and herbs.  If I was going to get on my hands and knees yanking out Johnson grass all summer, I might as well get some produce in the mix.  I have neighbors to impress, ya’ll.


I heard you should mark your plants, or lay out some form of grid, but in my typical impromptu fashion I just planted the melons and yellow squash and zucchini and cucumbers in the same general vicinity, because I’ll totally know from the leaves what they are.  But wait – I’ve never planted them before.  But wait – all the leaves look the freaking same.


I bought all my plants from a natural organic nursery here in Austin – a good healthy mix of heirloom varieties, so when the cucumbers turned out looking fat and round I was pissed that I got some goofy variety that nobody in their right mind likes to eat.  I ended up picking one, diced it up, and ate it with oil and balsamic, but it was terrible.  I declared my first batch of cucumbers inedible and totally blamed the plant store for selling me total junk.  I was seething I just didn’t go get veggies at Home Depot, where things turn out as they should.


So the other day, I went to pick more peas and noticed that all the ends were growing black.  I rushed off to my organic guru, despite the cucumber disaster, and asked what the heck was happening.  I told him how I’d tended to them so lovingly, provided climbing apparatuses for them to attach to, fertilized the crap out of them, and now they were paying me back with black tips.  “You fertilized your peas?” He looked at me like I was telling a new mother to put Sprite in a baby’s bottle.  I felt stuck in a vortex where other avid gardeners were pointing and staring, like this is a party for legitimates and you’re just a smarmy school girl with braces.


Oh crap.  You don’t fertilize peas? Is this common knowledge? He told me I’d created a nitrogen crack habit for aphids, and how I’m now getting a fungus, and I needed to spray and pray and for the love of all that’s worthy read a book on gardening.  Fine already, plant nerd.


So when I went to spray the peas, one of my strange heirloom cucumbers had grown larger because I wanted to see how big it would grow, and as I looked closer I was quite amazed.  As it turns out they weren’t cucumbers after all.  They were cantaloupes. I’m not admitting that to anyone.


So the lesson to this story is to plant zinnas from seed, because these suckers are totally foolproof, and grow into lovely big-headed flowers in the heat of the summer, so when friends come over you can hand them bouquets, and say you garden, even if you overwater the tomatoes and pick all your melons before they ripen and over-nitrate.


Next year, watch out.  I’m reading a book on the subject.