Call me crazy, but at least, I think so. In Florida, one never knows. Each morning is truly a new dawn and the season, well, it’s rather indiscriminate around here. One day, you wake up to fog and rain—and cold–fifty degrees, max. But next thing you know, it’s eighty and sunny. Your head spins around and you find yourself wondering, where did this come from?
It’s a gift. Me, I’m good with eternal summer. As much as I like cooler weather and the knock of fall foliage, I’d take heat over cold any day of the week. It’s like this, when it’s too hot outside, I’m uncomfortable, sure, and I complain…
But when it’s too cold outdoors, YOU CAN DIE! I’m not kidding you – it starts with your ears, seeps down to your toes, next thing you know, you’re at an icy standstill and couldn’t walk to the next clearance sale sign if you had to! “Yes, dear, I admit it. It’s too cold for breathing out here let alone shopping!”
We recently returned from a trip to New York City and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Sure, the town, the sights…the tree – they’re spectacular! But the cold? Brrrrr…..hand me the remote, is all I can say.
But I digress. Back in sunny Florida, summer crops are FINALLY winding down, sweet potatoes our latest victim. But a fun thrashing, if I do say so myself. Picked the kids up from school the other day with a garden agenda in mind and lo and behold, I have two extras on board! Neighbor children left to simmer on the playground for a while after school whereby my daughter pleads, “Please. Can’t they come over to play?”
Play? My mind raced through the possibilities and with a gleam in my eye I replied, “Sure, sweet potato—I mean, sweetheart.” My smile broadened. “Of course they can come over to play.”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, and thrilled beyond imagination, dashed off to the playground to tell the others. As I watched her run–and pray she didn’t fall victim to a face plant—my smile turned devious.
I am wicked. I’ll admit it, straight up. But sweet potatoes need to be harvested, their vines composted, the fruits hauled up the hill to the house and I know of no better worker bee than a child. Their energy is boundless! And their enthusiasm…well, we’ve all read Tom Sawyer, haven’t we?
Chuckling to myself on the drive home, I turned up the Christmas music and rejoiced right along with them–what fun it will be!—then casually mentioned the sweet potatoes.
My daughter groaned, but the industrious lad sitting to my right perked up. “Sweet potatoes?” He glanced at me with the astute curiosity of a third grader. “What sweet potatoes?”
Generously, I shared with him how I intended to swim for sweet potatoes that afternoon, and if anyone cared to join me, I’d bee happy to have them. I smiled all sugar and pie. No, not swim in the pool. The dirt, dear boy. Glorious dirt.
“Sure,” he replied eagerly. “I’ll try.”
Well that was the end of that. Upon arrival home, the four barreled down to the garden intent on discovering the joy of harvesting sweet potatoes. Never mind it’s not their favorite food. No, no. That would be missing the point. These kids were after the fun factor and I am all about fun!
And by God, we didn’t disappoint. Actually, they were so enthralled with the entire process, posing for pictures, hollering after who had unearthed the largest potato, near knee deep in a soft pile of dirt, we had to send off to the house for more baskets!
More baskets! More baskets! My glee was contagious.
Until my daughter decided she’d had enough. It was time for her and her friend to return to her bedroom and commence dancing. Or jazzing, tumbling, whatever the heck you call leaping hands to floor, kicking your feet high in the air, over and behind your head, hopefully landing them against a wall, or to the floor again, this time with your belly inverted.
But she was gravely disappointed by her friend’s unabashed exuberance for sweet potato digging. She found the largest one so far. “Can I take it home?”
“You bet. Take a couple and I’ll show you how to make slips for growing your own.”
“When I get home,” the other insisted matter-of-fact, “I’m going to tell my mom, I want to start a garden.”
My daughter frowned and my heart went out to the poor girl. This garden business was old hat to her, but to her friend, it was heaven. Why, she may as well have told my daughter she was taking her dolls and going home, for the resultant disappointment was the same.
With a small smile, I prodded, “Isn’t it enough she’s at your house, having fun?”
“No,” came the sullen reply. “It’s not.”
I sighed. Lessons. They come in all forms and when you least expect them, forget about least wanting them, but there it was. “Look on the bright side, honey.” I put an arm around her slender shoulders and said, “We’re about finished here, and then you two can go on up to the house and play until her mom gets here.”
She brightened. “C’mon,” she urged her friend, encouraging vigorously with her arms. “Hurry up. Let’s go!” Moments later, the two took off running, only to halt midway up the hill. “Mom!” she shrieked.
I looked up to see my girlfriend strolling down to the garden. Time’s up, I mused, disappointed for the girls, but much to my satisfaction, they sprinted toward the house for a quick grab at play time.
“Your tomatoes are gorgeous!”
I basked in the admiration of my good friend. “Thank you,” I replied, hiding none of my pride.
“You really think so?” I asked, and immediately began to fuss with leaves and stems. “They’re a little droopy, over here, and this one needs a stake. This fella, he needs more twine.”
She smiled. “No, I don’t think so at all. I think they’re beautiful. And look at all your onions!” She walked up a few rows. “Are these the garlic?”
I beamed, delighted she remembered. “Why, yes they are,” I replied, then joined her to give the grand tour.