Mother announces, “School’s out. It’s time you two had your own gardens. No more family victory garden like we had in Washington. You are old enough to grow your own vegetables. We can eat them at home or maybe if they are really nice, you can try to sell them to your Grandmother and Grandfather.” She stops for a moment and then says, “You should have seen the vegetables we grew when I was little, and the eggs from our chickens we would try to sell to Granny and Granpop Clark.”
Our eyes widen at the thought of making some money. It’s got to be easier to grow vegetables than to dig up onion grass from our hard, old lawn back in Washington, and I’ll bet we can make more from our vegetables than five cents for a big bunch of onion grass.
Mother shows us our two small plots next to the large garden where Augustino, the gardener, tends her roses and where her vegetables are already growing. She says, “When Augustino comes on Monday, he’ll give you your own tools and show you how to make and measure the rows with string so you will know where to plant the vegetable seeds.”
We go together to the seed store and pick out the ones we want. The seeds come in small paper packets with lovely pictures on the front. I’m growing lettuce and radishes and carrots, and Michael’s growing beans and zucchini and yellow squash. Michael says his vegetables will be bigger than mine and he will make more money. I say everyone loves carrots and lettuce and maybe they won’t like his squash.
Our vegetables are poking up out of the ground! Michael’s string beans have long sticks next to them so they can make vines, and I have just thinned out my carrot plants as Augustino showed me.
“Manure,” I turn to Michael and stand up. “Remember the cow manure in the big wheelbarrow Augustino spreads over the garden? Our vegetables need food!”
The trowels are locked in the tool shed so we find some sticks and head over to the field where our two horses and two cows are grazing near the fence. I have borrowed a bucket from the barn and we try to lift the cow manure into it with our sticks. Under its hard crust the manure is gooey and makes me sick. I can tell Michael’s getting ready to throw his gross sticks at me, so I run and hide behind the horses. Their poops are nice and dry and round and easy to lift.
Back at the garden we dump the manure on the ground. I poke and push and prod the clumps between the rows of lettuce. Michael picks up the manure and crumbles it and spreads it with his hands. He’s finished way ahead of me.
“You’re such a sissy, Mary,” he grins, standing in the middle of Mother’s garden, eating her first tomatoes. I sniff and shake my head. I see the manure on his hands and face and the tomato seeds dribbling through the stains down his chin.
It’s market day and we head up the big hill to Grandmother and Grandfather’s house with our vegetables in Augustino’s wheelbarrow. Michael has two huge zucchinis and three little yellow squashes and a lot of string beans. I have two big bunches of weird-shaped carrots, three little bunches of radishes, and no lettuce—for some reason it did not want to grow. The hill gets steep and we put down the wheelbarrow so we can rest.
“It’s true,” I turn to Mike, “Your zucchinis are big and my carrots are full of lumps and sprouts. You have string beans and I don’t have any lettuce. I guess you’re going to make all the money.”
Michael looks at the vegetables and then at me. “It’s okay,” he says, and picks up his side of the wheelbarrow. “It’s okay, Mary, he smiles. “We’ll share.” I pick up my side and smile back at him. We start again together pushing the heavy wheelbarrow up the hill.
Excerpted from “Beginning with the End: A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing” by Mary R. Morgan