Category Archives: Garden

Mementos and Memories

There’s a difference. Mementos are the things we hold onto to remind us of the memories within our souls. They, in and of themselves, are no more than things and yet the emotional attachments we form with them can be very real. In the 18  months since my mother passed I have spent nearly every morning drinking from a mug that I gave her a few years ago. It reminds me of her every day and I’ve grown incredibly attached to this morning routine. Attachments can be comforting. They can also be damaging. In this case, I knew the fragility of the memento I used to retain this particular memory would eventually be tested. No one has the same coffee cup forever because coffee cups are made of ceramic and people are made of human and humans drop things. When this inevitability did finally come to pass this weekend, my initial reaction was, well, not good. It wasn’t anger I felt, but fear. The empty fear that I would have to say goodbye to those mornings and to those memories. As I tried to hide my tears by chopping an unnecessary amount of onion, my love worked hastily to try and repair my mug, my memories. I assured him it was fine, not something to worry about, it’s just a mug. But he knows me, knows my soul and would not be deterred.

Then it happened. The radio started…

The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.
When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.
And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: “Boy let me tell you what!”

I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone has songs that remind them of a specific place or person. This Charlie Daniels classic does both for me. It takes me back to Schlitterbahn as a youth, a water park my mother and I went to every summer for as long as I can remember. Schlitterbahn was our thing. It was a yearly tradition for just the two of us and part of the tradition was that we had to spend the entire day behaving like children (this went on until I was 18). I remember one year “The Devil went down to Georgia” came on the loudspeaker and my mom and I sang and danced along like, well, children. Until, of course, it got to the end and the line was edited as “I done told you once you son of a gun..” and Jeanie loudly corrected the loudspeaker, “I done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.”

She ruled.

Back in 2013, I’m now laughing through my tears, trying to explain the significance of this well-timed tune to my person. If ever there are signs we are supposed to take heed of in this life, “The Devil went down to Georgia” coming through my radio at that moment was one of them. Mementos will come and go, but there are an infinity of memories that can never be broken. And even the most delicate of mementos can be repaired and repurposed. My person, who cares more for my tender little heart than I’ll ever understand, glued my mug back together piece by piece and we are going to use it as a little planter. Thanks to him, we can now grow new memories out of the old. Jeanie would like that.


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An Urban Garden Fairy Tale, Ch. 2

For months, the woman blissfully watched her plants grow. Eventually many of them became too big for their pots. She re-planted many of the herbs into larger pots, but the sunflowers and tomato plants had no where to go. The small building she lived in had a tiny garden plot in front of it that no one ever used. Defiant after having returned from a weekend away to find her largest plants nearly dead, she decided she had as much right to plant there as anyone else.

lea spencer, lea craft spencer, urban garden, gardening, garden, astoria, queens, nyc, fairy tale, tomatoes, sunflowersWithout guidance, she pulled a few weeds from the dirt and attempted to re-plant the tomato and sunflower. She went to fetch some water and when she returned, whom did she see? Why it was her secret mentor, the gentleman who grows tomatoes in his backyard. He came over and inquired about her plants, insisting that in order for them to grow nicely, she would need to clear out the whole plot of weeds. He then asked if she had a broom handle. Perplexed, the woman glanced over to his porch, where all of his less-stable plants were being supported with broom handles. A-ha! One second, she said.

Elated to have made this connection, the woman ran back inside and tore the Swiffer from its handle! By the time she returned, he was standing with a broom handle in one hand and twine in the other. He helped her support the sunflower and the tomato plant.

lea spencer, lea craft spencer, urban garden, gardening, garden, astoria, queens, nyc, fairy tale, tomatoes, sunflowersHe then brought her over a small tomato plant from his garden to grow next to hers. Overjoyed and taken with emotion, the woman didn’t know how to thank him.

They continued chatting and he pointed to a few small plants growing amongst a larger plant on his porch and asked her if she knew what they were. She said no, to which he replied, “Watermelons.” The woman’s eyes grew large, “You’re growing watermelons?” she inquired. “Oh, no…” he began. “They grow themselves… I just watch.” He smiled with a wisdom she knew she couldn’t yet grasp. And with that smile the dark cloud over that day passed as the sun shone down on their two tomato plants, growing side by side on small street in a quiet neighborhood called Astoria.

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An Urban Garden Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a cozy apartment on a quiet street in Astoria, there lived a woman. She watched all summer long as the older man living next door to her tended to what appeared to be quite the garden. Without exception, he would leave his house early and tend to his plants. He would garden all morning long and then, in the afternoon, he would sit in the sun surveying his day’s work.

She then watched in the fall as he harvested what she learned were tomatoes from his backyard garden. As she longed for a backyard of her own, she wondered if the man would ever know how enchanted she was by his dedication to those plants.

The whole winter long, she stared out her window waiting for the man to return and by the time he did, she had resolved not to wait for a backyard, but to begin her garden inside.

These are my wittle tomato plants!

Inspired by the man next door, she bought three little tomato plants and an herb garden to start her on her journey.

Chives, oregano, cilantro, parsley, menorah

This spring, she watches the man faithfully tending to his plants as she smothers hers with love. She wonders how he’ll ever know the impact he had on her.

She knows.

As the joy of watching something grow washes over her, she knows, and she is grateful.


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