Many people think of gardens as a place where you come to view strategically place beautiful plant varieties. Gardens are more complicated than a place where plants grow.  Gardens are about the people and land.  Gardens allow for us to connect with our ancestors while simultaneously connecting to the land.  My father’s mother, has always had a garden in her yard that allowed for us to gather and eat from.  I never thought about why she had the garden, I assumed it was for the veggies it produced.  Little did I know that my Grandmother’s garden had more meaning to her then nourishment; it reminded her of her past and her journey.

I had never thought about how important a home garden can be until I spoke with my Grandmother.  My Grandmother, Mable Robinson, was born on February 29, 1932, in a coal mining camp in Acmar, Alabama.  My Grandmother was the daughter of a coal miner and a housekeeper.  She recalled that her father had a garden on the side of their house; the houses where situated very close to the coal mine where her father worked many many hours.  My Grandmother said that her father had all kinds of vegetables in his garden such as, “sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, collard greens, cabbage, turnips, mustards, tomatoes, some herbs, etc.”  She laughed as she reminisced about the trees in her father’s garden.  My Grandmother proclaimed with a smile, “my father had two trees in his garden, a peach tree and a plum tree, the plum tree didn’t give much fruit but he kept the tree anyway.”    My Grandmother remained living in the mining camp until 1949, when she meet up with my Grandfather in Chicago, whom she had married a year early.  

When my Grandmother meet up with my Grandfather, they eventually moved into the Henry Hornets Projects located on the Westside of Chicago.  My Grandmother hated living in the projects because there was “little greenery, a lot of concrete, and nowhere for her to plant her garden.”  My Grandfather eventually bought a home in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago; and the first thing my Grandmother did was plant a garden.  Not only she planted a garden but she said she “planted the some of the same vegetables that were in her father’s garden, including a peach tree.”  The peach tree never took root but the other plants did, and were able to provide many meals for her growing family.  She told me whenever she’s in her garden she is taken back to when she was a child helping her father in his garden while her mother was away preparing dinner for the family she worked for.  My Grandmother remembered my Grandfather saying that she will never have to be a housekeeper and be away from home until late in the evening; and he kept that promise.  

My Grandmother still lives in that house my Grandfather bought her over 50 years ago; and she still works in her garden.  This summer was the first time she did not have a garden because of health reasons.  This spring I promised her that my daughters, Wisdom and Justice, and I will be there to help her prepare the land and plant for this coming spring.  I want my girls to be able to connect with their past through the stories that are shared while cultivating the land.