I enjoy fairly good relations with children, in spite of the fact that I don’t really care for them. I’m small, so they seem to think I’m not exactly an adult. I have small dogs, and children find it fascinating that my dogs aren’t going to get any bigger than they already are. Most children are better acquainted with Labrador retrievers than chihuahuas, generally for good reason.
Getting along with children has its pluses and minuses. Sometimes, they assume we are FRIENDS. We are not friends, so that’s a minus. In general, my house doesn’t get egged or toilet papered, and that’s a plus.
Today, I had an encounter with a child. He asked to borrow my garden hose. He wanted to fill his swimming pool, which I assumed was a small, plastic affair. While I use the hose to water my tomato plants, it’s a crappy hose. It’s a hand-me-down. Someone must have run over it with a lawnmower, at some point, because it’s short and there is no coupling for a nozzle at the end, just a ragged petering out of hose. There is a better hose in the utility room. I could afford to lose this hose. So, I let the kid borrow it, but I said, menacingly, “Be sure to bring it back.”
The kid promised to return the hose, and surprisingly, he did. He had his little sisters in tow, this time. All of them were fully dressed and soaking wet. The hose returner explained that their mother had told them they could NOT fill the pool, so they had squirted each other, instead. Then, he said to his sisters, “See? She’s growin’ FOOD.” He pointed at my tomato plants.
I was momentarily stunned. While I eat the tomatoes, I’d always thought of what I was doing as growing tomatoes, not growing food.
“They’re tomatoes, ain’t they?” The boy cocked his head at my two plants.
Back on familiar ground, I said, “Yes, they are tomato plants.”
“I told you,” the kid said to his sisters. “She’s growin’ food.” It suddenly became clear to me that the girls were with him so he could prove his wild claims that I was growing food.
“Why you growin’ food?,” the older of the girls said, like she’d never heard of anyone doing anything so ridiculous.
This was another stunning question. A lot of people I know grow tomatoes. The ones who don’t grow their own tomatoes covet my tomatoes. If you want someone to owe you, you give them a homegrown tomato. That is how it has always been and how it will always be, at least in my world. “Because, they’re good,” I replied. “Tomatoes taste better when you grow them at home.”
The smallest girl rolled her eyes at my incredible folly, and the kids left me to hook up my own idiot-food-growing-ass hose. Food, they know, comes from the grocery store. You don’t have to grow it. You just buy it.
So, here I sit, a crazy old fart who grows FOOD, and I’m marveling that the kids find it to be so strange. I guess kids don’t have grannies who have gardens, anymore. Both of my grannies had gardens. One of my grannies had a garden so large that it was basically a small farm. She canned most of what she grew. She basically provided nearly everything her family ate, except for bread, meat, and milk. I don’t long for a return to those days, because my granny worked like a mule, in that garden. I have no interest in that much manual labor. But, the vegetable gardens my grannies had did give me a sense of how to grow things, and they gave me the knowledge that things you grow yourself are always better than the things you buy in the store. Most of the produce in grocery stores isn’t even worth eating, these days, and it isn’t going to get any better. The kids are the ones who are missing out, and I’ll just get crazier and crazier to generations of kids who will eat whatever someone sells them.