It was one of the last weekly lunches I remember sharing with my mom before her fight with cancer took a downward turn. Sitting together in the City Mall, I ate my egg roll salad and Mom nibbled at her chicken salad sandwich from Nothing Fancy. Conversation buzzed all around us but, as it was with all of our lunches, we sat enthralled in our conversation with one another.
I told her my husband and I were considering adding pigs to our homestead. If you have a large garden and chickens, does that qualify as a homestead?
Mom gave me a skeptical smile. “You know, my daddy raised pigs for a time.”
“He did? I thought he just farmed cotton?”
“Yes, he did, but he had pigs, too. All I remember was the awful smell. I’m not sure how many years he did it.”
My grandfather died years before I was born so what I knew about his simple life as an eastern Arkansas cotton farmer was what Mom had told me. Until that moment, I had no idea he raised animals.
As moms do, she let me rattle off our great ideas, of how we would have one pig butchered for our meat supply and sell the other to offset the feed costs. I’d compost the manure to fertilize the garden and be one step closer to a homesteader’s dream of self-sufficiency.
A few weeks later, on a lone drive through town, a thought occurred to me: I want to become a Master Gardener. I looked into the program through the Pope County Extension Office. It would require a few weeks of class work, an exam, and volunteer hours. The knowledge would be good for my own gardening efforts, and I could also pass it on to the readers of the garden portion of my blog.
I let myself dream a bit further. How ironic it would be if I became a Master Gardener. Me. Sure, I was the granddaughter of a farmer and the daughter of a prolific flower gardener. But I am also the one who wanted nothing to do with growing anything until four years ago, in my early 30s. Me.
But I knew it was a dream for another time. My mom was getting sicker and my focus needed to be on her and my own family, not a pipe dream of getting a Master Gardener certification. But someday…
Mom lost her battle with cancer just as the jonquils began to fade. Losing a parent tends to make one evaluate one’s heritage to some degree. I find myself staking tomatoes the way my mom taught me, thinking of her and of my grandfather I never met.
It took three decades to get here, but I am carrying on their legacy — their love of the earth the Lord gave them to work. I’m finding beauty in the flowers and finding satisfaction in the food. While we didn’t choose to have pigs this year, it isn’t out of the question for the future.
Sometimes I envision my mom and my grandfather trading stories up in Heaven, and perhaps God gives them a birds-eye view of me working the soil from time to time. I imagine Mom telling her daddy, “Look at that. Did you ever think you’d see her growing anything?” And then they’d laugh.
Sometimes my own children eagerly help me in the garden, but most of the time they find their way to the swing set or trampoline. And I’m fine with that. Whether they carry on the legacy they see me living out is their decision to make, but my own late appearance in the gardening world gives me hope. We just never know, as parents, what our children and grandchildren will take from us. It may not take root until decades later. I may not even see it come to pass while I’m living.
But like everything else in this life, what we sow will be reaped in one form or another. What my mom and my grandfather sowed, both in their love of the land and in their love of the Lord, is growing in me.
And I believe they’d be proud.