I have vivid memories of growing up with two gardens in our backyard. Memories of walking down the rows with my Opa or watering with my Mom or washing produce at the spigot with Oma- memories that are sometimes forgotten, only to be resurrected when I bite into a pea pod or smell wet earth or pull a raspberry off the bush. Back then, I didn’t notice the magic of a garden’s yield or food straight from the ground, streaked with dirt. It was just part of my life. I relished the taste without recognizing the beauty of it. But that has changed. These days, the sight of a garden row fills me with soul-aching pleasure and snapping beans off the vine is as satisfying as eating them. I may not have a garden of my own yet, but I take what I can get, and this summer that means getting food and picking food from a farm near my home.
Yesterday, I walked down long rows lined with beans on one side and sage on the other, bags in hand to gather dinner. My best friend and her kids were with me and ahead of me, picking beans and then finding the pea patch. One of her little ones, a blond two-year-old boy with a sharp eye and a vocabulary to match, held my bag of beans, watching me select the biggest ones and twist them free. He wanted to help and I showed him how to grip the bean and pull, scootching his hand closer to the top of it, lifting the leaves for him. He dropped a few of the beans he picked in my bag. I plucked another bean and took a bite, the crunch reverberating through my teeth. Raw beans are a weakness of mine. Watching me, he asked for a bite too. I handed him my piece and watched him chew it. “I can’t believe he likes that,” my friend said as he took another bite. While we picked, I selected a few to eat, sharing with my picking buddy, smiling at his new-found love of raw beans.
As I worked, I thought about my childhood and the moment that had just passed. I don’t know who first gave me raw beans from the bean patch, but the love for the taste has stayed with me into my adulthood. My need to walk barefoot on hard dirt, my appreciation of the feel and smell of dirt on my hands are all remnants of the childhood I had and the lessons I was taught by my parents and grandparents. My knowledge of gardening is still rudimentary but my appreciation for the power of soil, sun, and water and the resulting bounty that grows from the earth is something I learned early and learned well.
There was a tightness in my chest as I realized how much I want to pass those experiences on to my children. How desperately I want a child to pass experiences on to. Kneeling in the bean rows, I was overcome with an ache for them, these unknown people that I already love. In my bones, I can feel how much I am ready to meet them- to give them the world and for them to change mine. Yesterday was the day I discovered that all I want in the world, it seems, is to give my children the taste of a raw string bean.