While Grandma Annie traded garden-grown vegetables with her neighbors in Frenchtown and waited for the egg man to visit each week, Grandpa Harry tended to his garden in the old cattle traders' neighborhood across town.
My father's parents lived in the shadow of downtown, in a gable-and-wing shingled house with a tidy backyard and a full-fledged carriage house, instead of an old weathered shed. Once Harry retired from the railroad, he planted a garden of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots and peppers. A sidewalk from the house to the alley ran down the middle, making it easy for Harry to nurture his vegetables. There he was every morning, wearing the denim overalls he wore while working for the Chicago-North Western Railroad.
Harry was not a particularly tall man, maybe five-foot-ten or eleven, but there was a bigness to him, and a hale and blustery manner. His family was Belgian, Walloons, whose family names were typical of those given to short people, I learned in college.
He was industrious in his gardening habits and we always had fresh vegetables in the summertime.
I don't see much of Harry in myself, and my father was much more like his mother, Grandma Laura. But I will always associate Harry with fresh vegetables.
Today, I buy my vegetables from farm markets or the farm stands that are now open along the highway and at busy intersections. I'm buying tomatoes from local growers, and fresh onions, which beat anything I can find in a grocery store.
I'm growing my own cherry tomatoes and I've noticed they are especially healthy this year.
What's in your garden? Or your farm market basket?