Smells Like Red

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Gardening with our child seemed like a great idea. We would introduce our two-year-old to the wonders of growing food, and cultivate in him a healthy appreciation of vegetables.

It was a fine spring day. My husband had gopher-proofed and deer-proofed the garden. Our son was excited about working in the dirt. The baby tomato plants sat in their trays, their thin green arms shivering in the breeze. It was to be a day of family harmony.

First, we showed our son how to dig little holes in the soil for the plants, using a small spade. No, dear, not a toy John Deere backhoe. Eventually we agreed with him that a toy backhoe would work after all.

Next we showed him how to lift the plant gently by the stem. No, we would not be grabbing it by the scruff of its neck and flinging it against the wall.

An easier job might be the watering. We then agreed that a just little bit of water was best, as the plant swam in circles, gulping for air in the flooded dirt.


Forget family harmony. Hours later, exhausted and irritated, we decided to finish the job after our child had gone to bed. The next morning, our toddler came into the house waving one of the tomato plants between dirty fingers, like a trophy. As my husband worked to revive yet another plant, I explained to our son that never again was he to go near the garden.

We became Secret Service agents to our garden, keeping close surveillance of the tomato plants until at last fall arrived. His earlier plant-tormenting days a distant memory, we invited our son to pick the first tomato. The wholesome family moment I had envisaged months ago had finally arrived. My son held a tomato to his nose and inhaled deeply.

"Smells like red," he declared.

I smiled with pride. He took a bite of the tomato, screwed up his face and spat it out on the sofa.

With a Perspective, I'm Sally Bryson.