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.