Every year, during the final days of Spring – when the soil is gentle and rich – my father is in his garden. It is a warren of vines, seedlings and latticework and there until high summer he grows and encourages a flock of tomatoes.
My father takes great pride in his heavy summer crop. Sultry globes of many sizes hide within galaxies of green, starry leaves. My father kneels on the dirt and reaches into the verdant haze to harvest the recalcitrant blend of fruit and vegetable.
His care, patience and indifference to heat and insect would be expected of a farmer or a grower – not of a 6-time Emmy winner and former jazz disc jockey. He does not have to grow tomatoes. He does not have to tend a garden. He chooses to.
I believe that there is something in the nurturing of the earth; to witness the seasons pass through it like varying shadows that influences his choice. The wonder of change and growth: the relief at its simplicity, the happy confusion at the wonder drives the noble gentility of my father in his garden.
When he worked as a video tape editor for the local news, every year he’d bring a collection from his harvest. Once, the weatherman went on the air with a sunset of tomatoes arranged on his desk: red, yellow, orange, purple.
I remember that my father used to walk through the yard with my brother and I. Together we would peer into flowers and hedges, looking for spiders and for the worlds spinning through leaves, twigs and their earthy darkness. Even now, he will watch honeybees hover in oblique, filigree flight over the blossoms of his tangerine and nectarine trees. I will even watch: though at a safe distance, respectful of the bees’ reputation for suicide by sting.
My father’s garden has brought him modest fame: amongst co-workers, neighbors, friends, family. Within the smothering city, it is a source of cultivation and unpretentious culture. It is a creation of my father’s: from his hands and his heart. It is quiet, gracious and humble – just as he is.
I love my father, and from the heart I wish him a Happy Father’s Day.
But I will always hate tomatoes.