It is in the small things

“ Ag Pa! I don’t have time to play your game. Not now!” she would protest. He would refuse to move away from in front of her, his hands held behind his back.

“Which  hand!?”  he  would  keep  on  asking,  blue  eyes  twinkling  in  his  typical  naughty  way.  He  could  draw  out  the game  until  he  thought  that  it  was  just  the  right  moment.  Then,  in  a  sweeping,  gallant  gesture,  he  would  hold  his hand out to you. Clasped between finger and thumb, would be the delicate bloom of the first Gardenia bush. “Just smell that!” he would exclaim. “Isn’t it just the most wonderful scent you have ever smelt?!” He would put his nose deep into the white petals, drawing the perfume loudly into his nostrils. With that he would put water into a drinking glass  and  gently  put  the  bloom  stem  into  the  water.  Within  minutes  the  room  was  filled  with  the  delicate  scent  of Gardenia. While the Gardenia bush was in flower, he would play this game repeatedly with his wife and daughters. Spring, and Gardenia flowers, and his memory, all run together in my mind. It is a reminder of his gentler side.

He  loved  to  plant  vegetables.  Beetroot,  potatoes,  green  beans.  Those  were  his  favourites.  Most  times  I  was commandeered  to  help  with  the  digging  and  soil  preparation.  He  would  sit  on  his  haunches,  a  dark-haired,  olive skinned man, with supple muscles, rolling a cigarette while he gave instructions of what had to be done. He was a demanding teacher! The little plants or bulbs could only be planted once he was satisfied that enough digging and composting had been done. “No, no, no! Dig deeper! Your spade must go in all the way! Not at an angle! Straight down!  Do  as  I  have  shown  you”,  he  would  carry  on.  My  little  girl  body  struggled  to  hold  the  weight  of  the  spade. Repeatedly  I  would  try.  “Whose  child  are  you?  Can  you  see  I  never  give  up?  You  won’t  either!  Come  on.  That’s good.  Now  you’re  getting  it.  My  goodness,  what  a  wonderful  helper  you  are!”  His  praise  would  make  me  feel  ten feet  tall.  With  renewed  vigour  I  would  tackle  the  soil  and  spade.  Now,  forty  years  later,  I  have  the  urge  to  be surrounded by a few rows of potatoes and beetroot. The monkeys eat the green beans, but I still plant them! How deep  he  entrenched  in  me  a  love  for  the  soil  and  growing  plants.  How  close  I  feel  to  him  when  I  am  digging  and planting. How comforting it is, in a world of high tech gadgets, to smell the earth and look for rain.

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