Tiffany’s mother Sy’s garden in 2010 (Photo: Tiffany Lee)
Her garden, growing on Germain Street, needed just as much as a baby, every bit of her attention, love, and care. We moved so many times. The house on Germain was the fourth we moved into, but not the last.
The backyard of this house was a bit narrow and long and even had a little hill that led to a small woodsy area. Almost every day from spring until early fall, my mother came home to her garden ready to care for it. She threw on her black short-sleeved shirt, navy blue shorts, size five black Old Navy sandals, and a pair of yellow rubber gloves. She grabbed her square small chair decorated with lines crossing one another—showing the scratch marks and rust that have come along with it for the past years—and placed it in front of her garden, which was guarded by a two-inch-tall plastic wall to keep the soil from rolling away.
Her crops began on the right side of the yard. Tomato vines—the fruit gradually turning from yellow green to a firm, ripe, and bright red—weaved through the latticework of tall branches and sticks that my mother set to keep the vines from tangling on the ground. Next to the tomatoes grew beautifully bundled vibrant green onions and cilantro, then tall rows of lemongrass behind the cilantro. The greens included bok choy and cabbage heads, chicken herbs, and fish herbs for boiling.
My mother stood in front of each section for a couple of minutes to water it. I always noticed the satisfied look that it left on her face. The bright beaming sun sent its heat onto the vegetables, which led to them needing more water. My mother always stood there patiently; it was her way of meditating in complete relaxation after a long day of work. From the beginning of planting her garden, she had already chosen what she wanted to grow. She knew what vegetables we liked to eat, so I didn’t have to make any requests. Sometimes she grew vegetables we weren’t familiar with, but we were always willing to try something new. “It’s always nice,” she said, “to have new varieties of vegetables.”
We never complained; we did not need to depend on the flea market. But as winter approached, the garden suffocated under a heavy coat of snow. Later that year, we left the house on Germain and continued our lives in a new one. She again made a garden, planted her vegetables, let winter come to lay its coat on it, moved again, and continued. Her garden was our “home”—every time we moved, the one thing that never changed was the garden; it was always there in our backyard, guarded by a two-inch tall plastic wall to keep the soil from rolling away. She always told me to remember that having a garden “isn’t for your pleasure. It’s to make sure that your family will be able to have vegetables to eat with your meat so that it doesn’t taste so plain. So invest in your garden for as long as you can. It also saves you a lot of money!”
Tiffany Lee is a sixteen-year-old student at Como Park Senior High School. She enjoys reading and writing when she can. Watching TV is part of her daily routine. She likes to try new things.