Even though I grew up in the city, my parents always kept a garden in the backyard of our house. Sometimes it was an actual plot of land, but as we grew older, we needed the yard for our roaming games. The garden was relegated to the borders beside the fences. There the tomatoes, squash and onions shared space with the day lilies, the roses and the zinnias. My mother was in charge of both beauty and nourishment.
One late summer evening, before the fashion of daylight savings time took hold of the land, she sent me out for some onions. Green onions grow thin leaves above ground, but the white bulb is hidden. In the fading light, I grubbed a few of these from the soil, shook off the main dirt, and brought them to the kitchen sink for a good washing. Since mother was occupied, I put these down on the serving platter.
My dad always enjoyed the fresh garden produce. He was particular about the serving fork as the utensil to move the food from platter to plate. We got the evil eye if our own fork ever moved toward the common tray. Our good health depended upon this, in more ways than one.
His eyes lit up when he saw the fresh sliced tomatoes. Their red flesh and juice indicated their sweet taste awaiting his first bite. Even the green and white bulb looked inviting. The face he made when he crunched down upon it was another story altogether. As he chewed, he bravely asked, “is this from our garden?”
“Oh, yes! I picked it myself!” I announced proudly.
“Indeed. Have you tasted it yet?”
“Oh, I don’t care for onions!”
“I think I may be eating a flower.”
My brothers spit their milk straight through their noses as they collapsed laughing at my mistake and dad’s straight man’s delivery of a silly sentence. Mother just shook her head, for milk was everywhere.
September is the month when the gardens play out and fresh foods are but a memory. The trees turn colors with the fading light, so that transition too stirs up reminders of seasons past. If we get to racing along, hurrying toward Thanksgiving or Christmas, then we will miss these small, everyday simple, summer dinners.