Ancient History

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two crazy kidsMy dad once joked he met my mom at a Young Republicans meeting. I believed him for years, until my mother intervened and told me the true story. They met at a professional singles function when my dad tripped over her foot. She says it was an accident, my dad contends it was purposeful. Either way, he fell for her and they’ve been married for 37 years today.

Their first date was to historic and now non-existent* Elitch Gardens. It was a quaint but wildly popular amusement park with a ballroom, huge trees, and gorgeous gardens. Sometime during the date my mom asked my dad about his hobbies. He answered he liked to grow tomatoes.

This charmed her.

Every summer, as far as my memory lunges back, there has been a least one tomato plant growing somewhere in their yard. Tomato plants always belong to my dad, just as the mums lining the driveway and the roses in the corner garden belong to my mom. Other crops came and went. We had green beans, pumpkins, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, asparagus, a doomed apricot tree, and a thriving apple tree planted by my brother when he was in Kindergarten. None of these vegetables or fruits were constant, except the tomatoes.

There were wheelbarrow summers, when the old blue rusty one-wheeled wonder saw a lot of action. Loaded with tomatoes and worthy of being photographed with my smiling dad in his striped shirt, or loaded with kids as he took us on wild backyard rides better than anything whirling at Elitches—it was a good summer when the wheelbarrow was propped against the back of the house. Brown grocery bags bulged as he shared the harvest with friends and family. I think of all those tomatoes sliced to top grilled hamburgers or canned for hybernation and hunkering winter sauces. An unfortunate, secret side effect of bumper crops is the waste—I can remember throwing tomatoes as if they were juicy bombs, smacking my sister as she rode her bike nearby.

There were years of disappointment when the green caterpillars were fatter than any tomato. The plants didn’t grow and didn’t produce. Those years summer seemed to plod along, too, with no wheelbarrow rides because the wheelbarrow was in the crawlspace giving shelter to spiders. The few good tomatoes were prized and saved for something special, like steak night, to be chopped into the green salad or sliced and salted.

Despite the unstellar, he tried again each spring.

They tried again. They’ve tried again. And they’ve tried again, through wheelbarrow years and years when the spiders were smug. From watching their marriage, the years seem to be more wheelbarrow than not. It was the not-years that made the biggest impact on me.

Those tomatoes were delicious because they were prized. They weren’t prized because they were delicious.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad.

*** “Elitches” still exists. It was bought by Six Flags, stripped of every last shred of character and charm, moved to downtown Denver, and Bugs Bunny and $4 lemonades were installed.

11 comments to Tomatoes

  • sister-of-mopsy

    happy anniversary folks!!!!! I remember those summers just as mopsy describes… but she left ONE thing out that is crucial… the pickles… the BEST pickles on the planet I say, just as good as the tomatoes if not better and seemingly year after year they brewed the smelly vinegar brew that brought them to life… our folks brought lots and lots of goodness to life and as an adult I recognize that and I appreciate them more and more each day.

    side note: no wonder i suffer from SIPTSD (sister induced post-traumatic syndrome disorder) I was tortured and beaten by my sister!!!!

  • Mom-of-mopsy

    Thank you for the tribute and the memories. It does’t seem like 37 years have flown by, but it is heartwarming to learn what was special to you as you grew up. This year has been a so so with the tomatoes but the love and enjoyment we have for each other and our family is outstanding.

  • pianoliz

    What a wonderful story! I am so lucky to have married into a family with such a joyous past, present, and future! Congrats to my wonderful in-laws!

  • What great memories! Hope your folks had a wonderful anniversary!

  • Sweet story! Sweet tribute!

  • Happy Anniversary, Mom & Pop of Mopsy! (As a unit, would you be a Mompsy? A Pompsy?)

    Thanks for sharing their story.

    Funny you should mention Elitch’s….the other day I almost asked you if it was still around. I remember visiting it when I visited my Dad in the late ’70’s. I was something else in my white button up short suit…just realized that sounded like an Elvis description. blah, blah, blah…

  • bro-de-mopsy

    I’m so proud of my parents – what a shining example they have set for us. Not being a fan of tomatoes, I must admit I’ve probably never had my Dad’s tomatoes. So ashamed, I know. But I certainly share the memories of stinking, rotten, bumper crop tomato fights in the back yard.

    And I agree with Ali – you can’t memtion Dad’s tomatos without his legendary pickles as well! Those I did partake in.

  • Very sweet story with a funny intro! You’re a good writer – your writing has a very endearing “Home Sweet Home” feeling to it. Your header also looks nice 2.

  • Oh, Friend. This was a beautiful post and I’m so glad that you shared it with me. I really need to spend an afternoon on your blog, reading through your archives. You’re a delight.

  • How lovely! So wonderful that Jules’ tomato post brought this to the fore so it could be enjoyed again!

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