Column: Leave the weeds, pull the flowers, find yourself in deep trouble

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2006

Love Cruikshank, Love Notes

When I was small and helpless, I received gifts every spring, a pair of brown leather sandals that I’d outgrow before the next spring and a garden set. An avid gardener herself, my mother longed for the day when I would share her enthusiasm.

I rather liked the garden sets. They were child-size and consisted of a spade, a rake and a hoe. If the members of my family had been a bit brighter or a bit more realistic the expectations would have been less high-flown.

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Perhaps, too, things would have gone better if my mother hadn’t attempted to keep it all simple. She always prepared a tiny garden for me, about three feet long and two feet wide.

Under her supervision I planted nasturtium seeds. My mother was quite enthusiastic about nasturtiums. She said they were easy to grow, needed little care, looked pretty in a small vase and were good in salads.

I didn’t like the looks of them. I liked bouquets with roses and larkspur and I thought the taste of stems and petals of nasturtiums ruined any salad. I wasn’t that crazy about salads anyway.

Even though the weeding took me less than 15 minutes a morning I didn’t enjoy it. Being a sneaky and badly behaved little brat I managed to cut the weeding even shorter. I simply left the weeds and pulled the flowers.

Feed me nasturtiums in my salads would they! I had other plans. My mother was upset about my weeding. With great patience she’d spend time that she’d rather be spending on her own gardens showing and explaining the difference between a flower and a weed.

Looking back I think she’d have forgiven my trespass in murdering the nasturtiums, but she was a little disturbed about my thinking ability from the start.

She always denied that. As she put it, &8220;I always knew you had intelligence. I was just afraid that

it wasn’t the kind of intelligence that anyone outside the family would recognize as intelligence.&8221;

I once heard her say to my father in tones of deepest melancholy, &8220;Three years old and she can’t tell a weed from a nasturtium.&8221;

&8220;She can tell.&8221; said my father.

He was not enthusiastic about my gardening. Probably because he was usually the victim of it. I didn’t like to garden, but I loved my garden tools.

At that time the family didn’t have an automobile, but dad always had a motorcycle up until I

learned when I was four to drive it. At which time he decided it wasn’t safe to keep around.

Many nights he worked late and he’d come home after dark, flying up the alley from west to east, a sharp turn right up our driveway. The bike parked he would make his way in the dark up toward the house.

Ah! but just there, between the driveway and the house was where I’d been using my beloved spade. If I’d have worked as hard on the garden as I worked on my digging my mother would have been a happy woman.

The hole when I finished was about two and a half or three feet deep. I don’t know why my father always forgot about it, because I dug pretty much the same hole in the same place every summer. And daddy always stepped in it, falling full length on the ground and cussing to my mother’s dismay because the neighbors could hear him.

Even after she got him calmed down he was still understandably enraged.

&8220;Keep trying to turn that one into a gardener,&8221; he snarled, &8220;and one day I’ll be coming home to you with a broken leg, if not a broken neck.&8221;

(Albert Lea resident Love Cruikshank’s column appears on Thursdays.)