What I Got From Them


        My mother’s parents lived in a rustic brown farmhouse on Route 12 heading to Keene. When my mother was growing up the family  had to pump their water in the kitchen by hand. Gramma never had an electric dryer she hung her clothes summer and winter on the big green clothes line up by the barn. In the summer the Tenney’s had two gardens. One for Gramp and one for Gram. I still remember my grandfather picking carrots, knocking the soil off, and handing them out to the grandchildren to eat.

    The house was heated by kerosene which my grandfather drew from a giant  brown drum next to the house by the root cellar. I can see my grandfather across the years in his black and red flannel €€ jacket filling the little kerosene pot from the spigot of that great big drum. I can still smell the faint residue of the fuel as it burned inside keeping the family warm.

         Sad to say I really didn’t know them very well. We were among the youngest grandchildren in a large sea of grandchildren; There are cousins on that side I have never met.

        Every once in a while I will be sitting in a restraunt and a lady I don’t know will come up to me and say, “Is that little J. Lillie?”

         I feel like replying, “Wait I think he’s in here somewhere under the 250 pound guy!”  

       But I never do. The conversation usually rolls on too fast for my incredibly witty comments.

        It usually flows something like this, “I’m your cousin…. I’m Aunt and Uncle…. daughter.”

        To this I usually reply “Wow, it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. How long has it been?”

         She says “Oh we haven’t seen each other since you were like three. I only recognized you from the graduation picture hanging on my mother’s wall. You haven’t changed a bit!”

         An awkward silence inevitably falls at this point as we both realize that we are two strangers who have nothing but blood flowing between us. Strangely that doesn’t seem like much of a conversation starter.

          I have often wondered about my mother’s family. Am I like them? How? What did I get from them?

         Five years ago something of them began to appear in me (at least that’s what my mother says). I was sitting on my deck praying late into the night when I suddenly began to look at my property in a different way. I saw gardens. I have always loved gardens but until I turned 38 I never once desired to plan and grow a garden.

     That night, though, it was like a light switched on and I began to grow things. Every year since I have expanded, learned, and organized my garden a little more.Oh I’m not a great vegetable gardener like my grandparents were but I do really well with herbs and berries.

       Here’s a list of what I grow in my garden.

1. Tomatoes

2.  onions

3. peppers

4. lettuce

5.  red raspberry

6.  red currant

7. blackberry

8. plums

9. grapes

10. strawberry

11. rhubarb

12. mint (spearmint, applemint, peppermint)

13. rose

14. sorrel

15. horseradish

16. American Ginger

17. bay

18. oregano

19. thyme (lemon, and great)

20. parsley

21. loveage

22. chamomile (Roman, and German)

23. valerian

24. bee balm

25. yarrow

26. lady’s mantle

27. lemon balm

28. butterfly weed (pleurisy root)

29. echinacea

30. marsh mallow


33. lavender

      Each year I live I learn a little more about myself and who I am. I think if my grandparents were still alive we would have a lot to talk about. I’ve found something I got from them.

   What did you get from your grandparents?

    What do you grow?