Who’d have ever thunk it: Richard accepting a social invitation that excluded me? He was so unprepared that he told the caller that he and I had gardening to do this evening. I reminded him that a wise man I know had once admonished me that I should never decline social invitations in order to take care of our home. The wise man (named Richard) said, “We’re not here for the house; the house is here for us.” Ditto that for “our” garden on Mamie’s land.
Richard went fishing with his friend while I went to work. Mamie and I regularly give each other a hard time. She has told me more than once that since I travel without Richard, if she was younger she’d have already stolen my man. Mamie regularly tells people that every time there’s gardening to be done, I send Richard to do it while I disappear to Atlanta, Louisiana, or the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I told her to mark the date on her calendar as the day I came to work the garden while Richard went to play.
My father’s mother was already recruiting us to attend her hundredth birthday bash when she died at the age of ninety-six and a half. I keep reminding Mamie that I expect her to live to see her hundredth birthday so that I can help throw her the party we never got to give our grandma. I tell her that the reason we feed her is to keep her healthy until she reaches the century mark. I even tell her that’s why we’re gardening on her ground.
The truth is that Mamie is a person who, in Richard’s words, “will be pleased.” It’s a delight to hear her talk about the pleasure she gets from her garden. She recently told me that she wouldn’t care if she never got to eat one bite out of the garden we’re growing, she just loves to see it grow. She likes to go out, and lovingly look at it, and comment on how beautiful it is with its nice straight rows -- thanks to Richard’s scientific side. And she’s positively poetic about keeping caught up with the weeding.
More than one plant has had to be moved because I didn’t consult Mamie before planting, but she also freely admits that she’s still learning after over three quarters of a century at this game. Some squashes get too chummy with their neighbors and start inter-breeding, so they have to be separated to succeed. There are plants that have to be planted in certain places to keep them from her chickens and others that need certain soil conditions. And who knew that butternut squash needed twenty-five feet to run around in?
I’ve read a lot of garden lore in books, but unless you talk to the farmer who gardened your land before you did, there’s a lot of trial and error that still has to happen. Mamie may be saving me from some of the trial and error, and she’s a lot more interesting than any gardening book.