Garden Mind

This weekend, I worked in the garden.

There is a price to pay for garden beauty.  Weary and scratched up legs and arms from pulling, tugging, snipping, chopping, turning, hoeing, and carrying wheelbarrows full of branches to the slash pile.

And while I garden, my mind sinks into a sort of meditation.  At one point, I looked up yesterday and saw a big healthy doe not three feet from me, chomping on grass.  We looked at each other for a while, neither one of us uncomfortable in each others’ presence.  Then I went back to weeding and she to eating.

And while I garden, I remember past events from my life.  Events that pass before me as if they happened yesterday, fragments of memories I have not thought about in years.

And while I garden, I hear voices.  Mostly, I hear my parents talking to me in the old Sicilian dialect and it sounds so beautiful to my ears.  They give me advice, they crack jokes, they talk about the things that worry them most.

“Hello, girl.  Aren’t you a beauty?”  Chomp, chomp, chomp.

A memory of mom asking me to thread a needle for her.  What I would do to thread a needle for her again!

Vidi comu su’ tutti rusicatu?  Quisi li cerbi sunnu.  Chi dannu c’a fannu sti cerbi disgraziati! “See how everything’s been eaten?  The deer are to blame! Look at the damage these disgraceful deer have done!” (Mom)  So, I didn’t grow up with deer eating ma’s plants, but I still hear her disgust at the deer in my garden.

N’ama vidiri com’a finiri sta storia!   “We’ll just have to see how this drama is going to unfold.” (Dad)

A fist fight comes to mind.  One I was a part of!  A shameful memory.  I was in the third grade at St. Peter and Paul and I fought to destroy a classmate who was spreading nasty untrue rumors about my mentally delayed sister.   The nuns brought me to the office and asked me to explain myself, which I refused to do.  It was as if I had taken the vow of omerta before I could possibly know anything about omerta (omerta is the Sicilian “vow of silence”, non cooperation with the authorities: you don’t talk and you are safe).  I remember the exasperated nuns calling my mother.  I remember my mother coming to get me.  She got me in the car and asked me quietly why I had been involved in a violent fist fight.  I bravely repeated the rumor my classmate was spreading and mom quietly said, “Ca la mazzasti!”  (“You should have killed her!”)  (!!!)  And that was it.  She never told my dad or anyone else about it.   She must have spoken to the nuns because they let me back in school and the  little girl I had fought steered clear of me at every opportunity and she refrained from spreading other rumors.  All these memories came flooding at me while I was gardening.

Mi, neshi lu cuori, un iornu cosi beddru.”  “My, a day this beautiful just tugs at your heart.” (Mom)

1970.  A tough year for my family.  Dad was 48 years old in 1970 when he had cataract surgery on both eyes.  Back then, the surgery was brutal.  His entire lens was removed from each eye and eventually he would wear glasses the thickness of coke bottles which would dig into his nose and cause lesions. In 1970, he couldn’t work as he spent all his time recovering in a dark room because the light hurt him.  He listened to his broadband radio.  Mom put drops in his eyes several times a day.  A memory of me going into that dark room to say hi to him when I came home from school.  He was in so much discomfort that my presence simply added to the pain and I did not feel welcome.

E lu papa, li carusi criscianu e se ne vannu pi fari cunti’so.  “Kids.  They grow up and then they leave to strike out on their own.” (Dad)

Hanging out with some older teens at the Greek Fest in Merrillville, drinking ouzo!!  My head spinning until one guy says, “Hey, Gallo!  Ain’t that yer dad?”  Oh yes, that was my dad making an angry bee-line towards me!  Someone quickly took the cheap plastic glass of ouzo from my hand. Seeing my angry dad immediately sobered me up!  He roared, “Come with me!”  I went home with him and didn’t dare say a word for fear the smell of ouzo or the sound of my voice would overwhelm him!  When we got home, I meekly said, “I’m very sorry, Dad.”  He didn’t talk to me for days and then slowly all resumed to normal.  I never went to Greek Fest again and I have to say, I HATE the taste of ouzo!

Eh, li carusi.  Beddri sunu.   “Ah, kids.  They’re beautiful!” (Dad)  And guess what?  He was talking about us, his five full grown daughters. As full grown as we were, we were always kids in his eyes.   And as imperfect as we were (and are), we were the most beautiful of beings in his eyes!

Amazing memories that come  to mind as I garden!


17 Responses to “Garden Mind”

  1. Jenelle Osborne Says:

    That was beautiful entry,Fran. Thank you for sharing a piece of up your soul.


  2. Herb Says:

    beautiful garden and beautiful memories. thanks for sharing.


  3. Colleen Moloney Says:

    Beautiful Fran. Impossible not to be in the moment when reading your posts. They draw me right in — thanks for the beautiful moment. Miss you from Canada.



  4. kay Says:

    How nice to have your parents garden “with you.” those are rich moments your memories brought forth as you worked. thank you for letting us in there with you!


  5. Rene Says:

    I love it!!! Like others have said, thank you so much for sharing. Those are beautiful thoughts and memories. Your parents are definitely with you.


  6. marykay Says:

    “Tending” taps tender tendrils evoking tears…


  7. Joe Stapinski Says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one hearing voices while tending/ weeding in my garden. I did feel like I was there with you hearing grandma and grandpa. I often see them in my fig trees, tomatoe plants and butterflies that float amoung the flowers. Even in a drought filled year in Indiana I was able to get things to grow. When I see rabbits I think of grandma, grandpa and Uncle Charlie’s intense dislike of these quick little creatures which I somtimes share. Love the pictures and stories as always….. Joe(y)


    • frangallo Says:

      Thank you, Joe (Joey!), for your beautiful reply. Yes, voices, their voices in our heads! And I am so glad you got my mom and dad’s green thumbs! Rabbits…Rick says I need to write one of my dad’s rabbit stories down! I guess that one is stewing in the back of my mind. Love you and it makes me so happy that you are reading my blog! You inspire me to write more about Grandma and Grandpa Gallo! love you, Fran


  8. Nora Brown Says:

    Joey had delicious figs waiting for me today that he grew, he so has dad’s sweet spirit and loving heart 🙂 I too experience the same content feeling in my garden, I think because gardening was so much a part of our parents, that is we’re we feel them the most.
    Fran I never knew about the fist fight at school! Thanks for sharing this story.
    In 1970, or close to that year, I’m thinking it was more like 1972, dad had a retina detatchement that caused him to loose a lot of vision and so the thick glasses. Love you Fran and can’t wait to see you!


  9. Tina Says:

    What a delightful and moving post! And your photography is always amazing, Fran.


  10. Says:

    Oh my gosh what a treat to read this tonight, your amazing ability of story telling pulled me right into our past growing up with mom and dad, i could almost see them as you spoke their words. I can so relate, i too hear the comments, sayings and sometimes even their conversations among each other, in my head while gardening & cooking! love you Zina


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