When I look back on my youth I find snippets of memories where I was attracted to taking care of our yard and in some cases trying to learn how to grow things. I can remember living in Queens, NY, there were some neighborhood kids who's Dad was growing tomatoes. For some reason that became a big deal. And when things became a big deal on the block - Richmond Hill 124th St & Liberty Avenue - to be exact. Things got a little nutty. I had to be around 6 or 7 years old at the time. We were all very prone to fads back then, the entire block of kids. When something hit, it hit hard & quick. All the kids had to do it, no matter what. Pogo sticks, yo-yos, roller skates, those hard balls on a string that knocked together when you did it right or caused a black eye. Bicycles, The Partridge Family music, stick ball, Pinkies, ring-a-lee-vee-o, baseball cards, Bazooka gum comics (you could buy crap if you saved enough of them), GI Joes, Shasta Soda (all kinds of flavors and they were only a dime), I could go on. When the great tomato craze hit I remember being really confused how someone could grow food in their backyard, on our concrete filled block. But, it was the latest fad and I had to try. Like most kids, I failed miserably. We had no idea what were doing, but we talked our parents into some seeds, some planters and found dirt (that was probably one of the big causes of massive failure). We plopped in our seeds, over watered and waited...impatiently. I think someone actually sprouted a small bud, but it was too late we were on to the next fad by then.
I think we must have moved 20 times before the age of 15. Many of the houses were rent houses. I actually don't remember living in a home that we actually owned. Maybe the one in Ft Lauderdale? Maybe. Anyway, as I hit 14ish, I began to notice how dumpy some of the houses were that we were renting. The yards were basically dust fields, if there was any kind of grass it was meager. I began to take upon myself to spruce things up a bit. Again, no idea what I was doing but thought if I raked, cut and trimmed it couldn't hurt. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a smidge of pride. Don't think it looked all that much better, but it sure felt better.
Then there was the time I needed money, I was a junior in high school. Someone knew someone, that knew someone who had a son that started their own landscaping business, right out of high school. He was doing a sizable yard and needed help. The pay was $25, that equated to almost a month of gas money back then, I was in. Until about 30 minutes into the job, I was out. I hated it. Too hard, too messy, too hot, too much.
But then I found myself mowing our impossible yards with a push mower or just with a weed whacker. When my Stepfather suggested I use a sickle to cut the yard, I laughed and quietly gave him the finger. This attraction to the thought of having a nice yard didn't have the stamina required to stay relevant in my head. Too many other things going on at that time.
As I grew older and became a home owner I began to really explore what gardening was all about, how to properly fertilize a lawn. On a whim one day I went to the nursery, bought a bunch of flowers, read a couple of articles and literally dug in. I was immediately hooked. Entering the garden center transported me, sudden calm would come over me as I went up and down the aisles. Began to experiment with new flowers, bought more and more and more pots. Soon I had an actual garden. After work, going outside and tending to it was my exhale. It was my quiet space and escape. It was solitary and that was perfect.
Then one day my ex-mother-in-law said to me, "I guess you do have a green thumb". I paused after she said that, I was suddenly filled with pride. This city kid from Queens, actually turned out to have a green thumb. That brief conversation stays with me. Not sure she knew how happy and gratifying those 8 words made me feel.
Today, I still have my green thumb, but gardening is no longer my escape. I do it in spurts, it's not a reason to be alone anymore, it's something I like to share and do with my best friend in life.
How green is your thumb?