At last, summer brings us the long-awaited abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. Who can resist a warm, succulent tomato right off the vine that rewards our hunger with a warm, juicy taste of a lost memory. How about biting into a perfect peach that tops the list of eating wholesome, delicious fruit. Not to be outdone, carrots and corn vie for attention and supplement our grilled burgers with tasty side dishes. We’re so fortunate to have devoted farmers that keep us healthy with the fruits of their labor.
When I was growing up, we didn’t think of growing our own veggies and fruit because it was sold in neighborhoods by hucksters in small trucks or horse-drawn wagons. But then we heard about the need for family “Victory Gardens,” the patriotic answer to the terrible war that was affecting our country. We kids, 8, 7 and 4, were just beginning to realize the sacrifices we should make as our part of the war effort, since most of the yearly farm produce would go overseas to the fighting troops. Until then, we kids had minimal summer chores, then weeks of fantasies in the great outdoors, lazy days of challenging our creativity, playing board games, riding our trikes or baking with mom. But then, things changed!
Our small city yard had areas of concrete and a tree for climbing, but our dad dug up a small corner next to the garage for our part of the war effort. This was the beginning of our very own garden, and to us kids, the end of our summertime fun. The first year we planted about ten tomato plants, two rows of beans and a patch of carrots and potatoes. We kids hoped we were done with the work until we were told this was our job for the summer. We were taught what weeds looked like and how to cultivate tomato plants. The watering was another story. Since our hose didn’t reach that far, we had to put two full pails and a sprinkling can in our wagon and pull it to the back of our yard. This was work until we found out that if we were clumsy we could splash each other and cool off. By the time we accepted this reality and saw our efforts result in healthy plants, we again thought our work might be over and we could now be free to enjoy what was left of summer vacation. Not so. We were shown how to pick the beans, being careful not to disrupt any blossoms that would produce more of this dreaded vegetable. Tomatoes were easy to harvest and luckily our dad took care of digging up the carrots and potatoes.
Eventually, we kids became accustomed to caring for our victory garden and thought we were finally nearing the end of our duty. Oh, no. Mom had a wonderful surprise for us. Now was canning season and we would be helping her cut beans, scrub carrots and peel tomatoes. She had supplemented our harvest by ordering more of the same from a farmer! This can’t be happening! Where’s our fun? We kids had to slow down and accept the inevitable situation that would become our daily routine.
We had our garden during every year the war continued and it grew in size and quality. As time went on, we became more understanding and accepting of our responsibilities. We adjusted our attitudes, yet our overall happiness was not sincere as we knew it. But in spite of all our prayers for the ending of the war, there was a benefit we kids wholeheartedly agreed on. It was the precious wintertime wealth of delicious canned veggies that added to our table’s camouflaged portion of meat. It was our reward for the constant hard work that helped sustain us and the reason for it all. That’s why it was then, and only then that we’d unanimously admit that yes, it’s true! There really was a victory in having a garden.
I'm a retired Sun Newspaper typist. I've been writing freelance articles for the past twenty five years. Some of them are personal experiences having to do with my family of eight children and a total of twenty grandchildren. They keep me busy with a variety of subject matter.