My earliest memories of plants all took place in my Lola’s garden. In 2006, we had just relocated from Montana to Lola’s house in Los Angeles. Back then, I hadn’t realized how poor my family was to be forced to live in someone else’s house. My parents did the best they could to hide our financial struggle from my little sister and me. Thanks to them and my Lola, we lived a carefree childhood around the house. Many of our memories were made in the garden in the backyard.
My Lola loved to take care of plants. Though I was never one to be a green thumb, I would enjoy watching Lola tend to her wide variety of vegetation. They ranged from tomatoes to parsley to apples. There were many tall stalks of vines, making them the perfect places for hide and seek. It would take quite a bit for my sister to find me whenever we played together. At nights when we couldn’t sleep, we would grab our flashlights, sneak out to the garden, and look for bugs in the soil. One night, Lola caught the both of us near her tomatoes. However, instead of scolding us, she greeted us with a warm smile and taught us how to water and weed her plants.
In the year we stayed with my Lola, my father had earned enough money for our family to move to a different city and buy a house of our own. I was saddened by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to spend time in my Lola’s garden anymore, but I promised myself that once I was old enough, I would drive my sister and I back to LA and visit Lola’s garden once more. However, I wouldn’t be able to see this dream come to fruition.
Years after we settled down in the desert city of Blythe, CA, my Lolo came to visit for a few months. Like Lola, he liked to spend his time gardening, so much so he decided to grow pineapples in our backyard. It probably wasn’t the best idea to begin a garden in the middle of a desert, but for Lolo, there was no such thing as difficult and decided to take on the challenge. Unfortunately, his visit came to a close and returned to LA before he could see his plants bear fruit. At this point, the pineapples were only mere sprouts poking through the ground. Frankly, I didn’t care for these plants. The day Lolo left, he entrusted me with the task of taking care of his “garden.” I did the best I could to remember to look after the pineapples. At some point, I had completely forgotten they existed. They had become yellow wilted stalks.
I felt as though I had disappointed Lolo, so when my mother and father Skyped him to check in, I avoided their room for fear he would ask about his plants. My mother called my sister and me into the room I assumed to greet Lolo. What I saw on the screen was something I could never think to happen. Lolo was in the hospital and just given us the news that Lola had passed on. In that moment, I felt numb. Not only in body, but to everything surrounding me. The sounds of my sister’s tears were distant as I recalled the memories of LA and the garden.
In Lola’s memory, I had decided to finally try my hand in gardening. I had started with cherry tomatoes as it was her favorite. The arid climate wasn’t the best for growing tomatoes, but with much TLC and water, I was able to witness small green spheres sprouting from the vines. I was extremely happy with the progress of the tomatoes that I was almost brought to tears. Through these Solanum lycopersicum, I felt connected to my Lola once again. Both the plants and Lola taught me the importance of hard work, patience, resilience, and most of all, family.
Author: Fritzi Ledesma is a student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is studying Nutritional Sciences.
Another story about grandparents and tomatoes can be found here.