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Volume 3 Number 2 • Fall 2011

Mary Lauren Weimer

Tomatoes on the Vine

Two summers since he sold the farm and still no tomatoes on the vine. My grandfather had moved from that western Kentucky soil- hundreds of acres of it- to live with my family when the cancer made it impossible for him to live alone. Our dirt was clay, the color of old blood. He wasn't used to working in ground like that, ground that needed to be coddled and convinced to play along.

My father had given him a garden space in the yard, to the east of the house. That first summer he'd started the tomatoes too early, not taking into account that we lived in a slightly cooler climate. But by the second year he knew just how to time it. I helped him put those tomato plants into the soil after the last frost, careful not to crowd them. I covered the leggy bottom halves with soil, not worried about the dirt that was getting under my fingernails. I was doing important work. Granddad let me hold the tail of the hose as he sprayed the plants with water. I crowned each one with its own cage, encircling it with shelter. 

Every day Granddad and I tended to those tomato plants. They gave us both a sense of purpose that summer, and the satisfaction that comes from caring for something when you're used to being the one who's tended to. Coddled. Convinced.

We watched for any signs of change, and eventually it came. First, leafy yellow flowers.  Then the lime green unripened fruit, which I imagined would taste like the stalks of dandelions I held onto tightly as I blew at the feathery wishing seeds:

I wish I were older.
I wish I made all the rules.
I wish that just one last time, Granddad could push me high on that tire swing. The one on the farm.

Finally, like a wish granted, the ripe tomatoes came. They were the color that love feels like, juice running down your chin. You can't hold that feeling in your hands.

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned blogger. She writes at My 3 Little Birds ( and is pursuing a career as a freelancer.

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