My love for them is rooted deep in my childhood. I remember being a young girl and helping my father out with our little spot of land. How my father wanted our yard to be pretty and add to the beauty of our neighborhood. I learned from him that a good garden was not only beautiful, it was also fruitful in the sense it should produce food we could enjoy. Having fruit trees was so important to him. To this day his garden is brimming with trees that gift us guavas, oranges, pomegranates and lemons just to name a few. My heart is full when I see how much love le tiene a su pedacito de tierra.
Why am I so grateful for the fact my father has a beautiful garden of his own? My father and his siblings grew up in poverty. They worked manual labor as very young children to help their family survive. I’ve heard his brothers say “que no tuvieron niñez” because if they didn’t work they didn’t eat. The family was very large and they were without a father. They were raised by a strong woman but the fact they all tragically lost their dad to death and had so very little growing up weighs heavily on their hearts and shoulders to this day.
When they speak about their youth, there is always raw emotion that they work so hard to conceal but every now and then it bubbles over. It resides just below the surface and is often expressed with tears and difficulty because the thoughts, the memories cause them to choke up. When I would listen to their conversations as a child, I would hear them talk about land. They discussed working the land, caring for it, helping it produce. There was always a hint of longing for the land they left behind. I could feel my father’s love for the land of his youth.
My parents, my aunts, uncles and the majority of all the adults I knew growing up came from Mexico. They immigrated to the US in the same manner, hidden under the protection of the night with the stars above as witnesses they trekked across the mountains and deserts with fear in their minds but hope for a better life ablaze in their hearts. They did not speak the local language and at times faced the ugly reality of racism. Yet they endured, they planted roots in their new country and started families. They left the ranchos and pueblos, the land of their birth that watched them grow in exchange for cities thousands of miles away but the love of the land they never abandoned.
Weekends were spent at local swap meets, plants were purchased and happily hauled home. Whether in the ground or in pots, life was growing and producing food for our families. Tomates, chiles y yerba buena were always a go to favorite. Life abounded in our yards and patios. It did not matter if you lived in a house or apartment, little pots of life were always around.
Our fathers shared stories about their plants and what they were growing. When they spoke there was always a dream of one day having a home of their own, not a rental but a mortgage. Then they would surely have a much grander and beautiful garden! I always hoped my parents would one day have the place they envisioned.
I am grateful to see so many of my of their generation settled in their older years. I know not all have it easy, getting older gifts knowledge and wisdom but it also punishes with maladies of various kinds. Yet it is good to see that some have their own places, others have a comfortable spot in the homes of their grown children. They are well and thriving. Their generation raised us and showed us the way through the many struggles they battled. They are still teachers but now they do not only teach us but they teach our children. Our kids are growing up watching them care for the land, the garden, the earth and in the process many of us are inheriting the love for the land that is a part of their being.
We grow our own food, our own flowers and fill our homes con grandes variedades de plantas. We feel the connection a nuestros mayores and strive to make them proud by being stewards of our own little plots of land. I love to talk to my father about the garden, about the trees, las flores and everything that caring for my garden entails. We discuss what is going well, what is not and how to help it heal. We trade secrets. I like many others of my generation might not have been born in Mexico o en el rancho but the love of it has been planted deep within us and it’s now rooted in our very being for we, just like our parents are people of the land.
– May 10, 2022 Jardin dés Tuileries Paris, France