My father was a gardener, and not just a regular gardener, mind you. He planted and maintained a garden large enough to keep our entire family of 5 in a yearly supply of vegetables, raspberries, strawberries, kohlrabi, eggplant, and just about any other item you could plant in a garden in the midwestern United States.
His garden was always a source of pain for me. It was another area where I could never do anything right.
“You can’t plant peas that deep!”
“You missed a bunch of the beans when you picked them and now the crows are eating them! Did you even bother to look under the bushes??”
“Why did you pick these raspberries?? They aren’t nearly ripe enough!”
On and on. Failure after failure. It was horrible. To this day I don’t have any interest in gardening because it brings back so many painful memories.
But none of the above incidents were anywhere close to my most painful garden memory…
I was about 14 and it was early May. Every year, during the first few weeks of May, my father would borrow a rototiller from one of our neighbors and till the entire garden in preparation for planting a week or so later. My father was a high school teacher and coached girl’s track at the high school where he taught. On the first Saturday in May he had an invitational track meet that he had to attend that was over 100 miles away, which meant he was going to be gone all day. Knowing that my father always tilled the garden the first week of May, I went to the neighbor’s house the morning of his track meet and borrowed their rototiller so I could till the garden for my father while he was gone. Due to the size of the garden, it took over 3 hours to till the entire plot. I tilled the garden, cleaned up the rototiller, and returned it to the neighbor, thinking I had done my father a favor.
Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished.
The next day (Sunday) we were sitting at the dinner table having dinner and I asked my father if he had noticed I had tilled the garden.
His response: “Yes, but you didn’t till it deep enough, I’m going to have to do it again”
I was crushed. Instead of acknowledging my efforts he again told me that what I did was inadequate. Instead of thanking me for helping him he told me I had wasted my time.
A few days later I learned that the neighbor had found a broken tine on his tiller after I had borrowed it. It was one of the inside tines which meant the broken tine wasn’t readily visible. I had no idea it was broken. It could have been broken before I had ever used it, but it was assumed that I had broken it. My father was furious. Now I had embarrassed him because I had broken a tine on the neighbors tiller and he would have to pay to have it fixed.
I never tilled the garden again.