My Little Garden

I remember my grandmother’s old house. Long, narrow, dark – but warm and loving.

I used to stay there often, in the school holidays. Out the back and through the sewing room with the crazed glass ceiling, was a teeny yard and in that yard, guarded loyally by Chummy the German Shepard, was my grumpy Nannu’s old wooden fishing shed.

Nannu was a fisherman, as were his sons, and I call him ‘grumpy’, because he was forever yelling at someone – anyone, unless his favourite TV shows were on, or he was out fishing. I didn’t ever hear him yell at the fish he caught, though he did yell at his sons whenever they did something wrong on the luzzu. The shed was absolutely wild with nets, buoys, gaffs, and shelves of the weirdest things – like the greeny-yellow jars of ancient cheese. Someone once told me that fishermen used to pee on the cheese to give it a more rancid odour and then lock it up for a while to later use as burly. I could never understand why fish would like pee-cheese. Fish are funny creatures.

Past the shed and to the back of the yard, there was a crumbling, blue wooden stairway to the roof. Where I grew up, roofs (or bejt) were flat and utilised much as yards are in colder climates. I loved the roof – my uncle kept pigeons there and sometimes on a warm day I would lie on the roof wall, balancing, and soak in the sun and the pigeon coos. I used to play ‘beads’ with my older sister, which was the art of flicking the bright red things into the gouges and cracks in the ancient, mouldy tiles.

That was Nanna’s roof. But there was a place far more special on the way to the roof. Halfway up the winding stairway, you could jump across a little wooded rail and find yourself in an overgrown garden – a secret garden. I imagine that once it was maintained, but it had long gone to seed and weed and was never visited – by anyone but me. Aside from the delicious feeling of hiding in the overgrown garden in itself, I had another reason for escaping up there. You see, if you pushed through the shoulder-high weeds, parted the 3’ thick wild ivy, and climbed a little way up a fence – you could see into the neighbour’s backyard. And there I would chat with Theresa, my first (maybe second) girlfriend. We would say silly stuff and act all coy with each other most days. When her mother caught us though, things got a little difficult. It was improper for her to be talking to the rough-looking boy over the fence I guess. So we did it in stealth.

This meant that I sometimes had to wait for hours on end till Theresa made her sneaky way out. And since I needed an excuse for being up there, by myself, most of the day, I suggested to my Nanna that I fix up the garden. And so, I did. Most of that summer, I pulled out weeds and chopped up ivy. Nanna gave me seeds to plant – tomatoes, and garden vegetables. It took me a few weeks to clear the ground, especially being 8 years old. But when it was done, I was so proud! I planted the seeds and watched expectantly, as young children do, for them to grow. My grumpy grandfather gave me a handful of flower seeds, so I dug a little trench around the veggie patch and planted those also. I remember slowly watering with a green tin can, watching the water make it’s way around the trenches like a moat.

I came to love that garden. Theresa and I forgot about each other after we met once and had a secret kiss – a culmination, if you will. I still think of her sometimes, and wonder how she grew, if she looks anything like she did at 8, if she has a family or if, indeed, whether she is still amongst the living. But more then that, I think of my little secret garden. In all honesty, I can’t remember that the seeds germinated. I know I watched the furrows for many, many hours, but can’t remember any sprouts.

Why is it that thinking about my little garden hurts so much?

My Little Garden

Mark German

Strathmore, Australia

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