Omi and Opa were big on gardening
. I recall them moving around often. Opa worked for the German Consulate
, spoke three languages, always the diplomat
, very valuable, hence he went where The Embassy
sent him. Packing up his family and heading to a different country/city every few years. They always picked a home outside the city and Opa would commute in, usually by train
. I recall one of the houses had train tracks right behind it. I remember pressing my nose up to the fence
to look at the straightlines connected like a ladder on the ground. One of the things that they always did upon moving to a new home was to fill the garden. The garden was a constant work in progress
, starting from nothing
and building to brightness. Flowers filled every corner, every border. A vegetable garden would spring up near the house, and fruit patches near that, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Window boxes would hang from the windows. Window boxes that Omi would paint with designs. She was an artist
.( She was always making something for somebody. She gave away most everything she made to charity
They would take long walks in what ever secluded wooded area they could find. It was always a stipulation in a move, there had to be a place to hike for Opa. They would carefully gather wild flowers to bring back to their home to plant. Native wildflowers make the best transplants. They were born for the climate is what Opa used to tell me. They would bring back bits of fallen tree branches to border their gardens, interesting rocks to add a bit of interest. Waste not, want not. And just when the garden was perfect, finally done...the Consulate would transfer Opa. His three boys followed until the move after Boston. They had followed him to England, where my father met my mother, and they followed him to Boston. But once there, the boys were old enough to want to settle down, go their own way. Opa and Omi moved to Ottawa by themselves, started a new garden, native to that area, but always there were the berries. They had to have fresh berries in the summer for their icecream or their yogurt. Another garden to grow and when it was done, Opa was transferred again. This time to New York City.....and another garden was sprouted and grew and flourished under their loving care. More berries to eat in the morning sun. More juice dribbling down greedy chins. And when the garden was perfect again, Opa had to retire, which meant leaving the country. His boys could stay, because by then all had had children born to this land, but he and Omi had to leave. They had to return to their homeland.
They settled in Nussdorf, a sleepy little village at the foot of the Alps. Lots of good hiking. Lots of fresh milk. Lots of places to gather native plants to set down roots in a new garden. This garden flourished as well and when the grandchildren came to visit, berries were stuffed in their mouths, purple faces and fingers. But this garden could never be perfect, try as they might. It was not close enough to be enjoyed often by their family who was still in America. So it came to the time that two of the sons became citizens in order for their parents to be allowed to live in the country.
This was the last move for Omi and Opa as a couple. A home was found for them on Cape Cod, near a beautiful wooded area. and here they set to making their last garden together. This was the garden they had when I moved into my first home. I walked about Opa's garden with him talking about my plans for this and that, then he bent down and started digging up some raspberry/blackberry plants and put them into a bag, to start my own stock from his. Each year the patch would grow, adding more and more. Until I had a thick patch as well. My own kids and daycare kids would stuff their faces in the dappled sunlight under the trees, carefully plucking the blackberries and raspberries as soon as they ripened. Purple juices dribbling down chins and staining t-shirts.
Then came the year Opa passed away. That patch became more meaningful to me, it was a part of him that he had passed on to me. When we moved to California I was upset to learn I could not bring part of the berry patch with me to start a new one. The state import laws would require the border guards to confiscate them. I was beside myself with grief anew. It was a part of him, a part of me, a connection with the infinite. The new owners of this house wouldn't understand that. This patch would not hold the same meaning for them. I did not want to abandon it. I needed it. The day before I moved, my father came over and dug up a section of the patch. "I'll plant them for you in my yard until the day you can take them back into yours."
Omi lives with my parents now, the berry patch is thriving she tells me. She feels Opa there, just like I did. My young nephews and nieces stuff their faces with berries just as they ripen in the warm early summer sun while she sits on the bench watching them play, remembering me laughing the same way. I am content, knowing that someday I'll be able to start a new one with the roots of the old, to hand down to my own children if they want them, and they will come to their garden, feel me and their great grandfather. They won't be alone.