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He woke me bright and early and said, "It’s time to go. We’re going to the garden—the one behind the old tin shed where the watermelons grow." I dressed and ran down to breakfast…for my buttered toast topped with powdered sugar…just as quick my little legs could. I couldn’t wait to start the day, but first, Grandpa always made me pray. Then after breakfast we walked to the old shed—my feet tucked in Grandpa’s worn out overall pockets and my arms wrapped around his weathered, tan neck. I was very small, you see, so he always gave me a ride. He was strong and steady, just like any hard-working man. But he was gentle with me, because I was his little "Pixie."
Behind the shed was a secret garden—it couldn’t be seen from the house nor road. Back there, Grandpa let me work in the dirt, just like him. "Go check those watermelons. Tell me if their ripe," he’s say. "Ok, Grandpa!" I’d run through the tangled vines that grabbed at my legs to trip me. I dodged melons left and right, trying to find the biggest one so I could give it a "thump," just like Grandpa showed me. "Hey, Grandpa! I think this one is ripe!" I’d sit on the melon, waiting for him to come. My four-year-old, skinny body did it no harm. He’d walk through the vines with authority. Sometimes they even seemed to move aside as if he was a king. He’d lift me off the melon to make sure I was right. "Ok, this one is ready," he'd say. "I bet Grandma can fix it for dessert tomorrow."
"Now, we need to till the soil over there in that spot. I need your help," he would say. "Can you run the tiller?"
"I think so, Grandpa. I think so."
He’d start the tiller and its teeth thrashed around. It looked like a monster that would chase me any second. I didn’t want to run the tiller. I was way too scared. So, I always followed behind. "Ok," he’d say. "Get behind me and don’t tell Grandma." He always gave me a wink and a smile.
"I won’t, Grandpa. I won’t."
I’d get right behind Grandpa, stick my hands in his back pockets, and away we’d go, following the scary tiller as it tore through the soil, slinging dirt clods in the air. After tilling, he made a nice, big hills with his hoe. I got to plant the seeds. One by one, between my tiny forefinger and thumb, I’d place a seed in the dirt and he’d cover it with the hoe. "In a few days, these will start to grow."
Finally, when it got too hot and the sun started to burn, he’d put the tools aside and said, "It’s time to go." I’d jump on his back, stick my feet in his pockets and wrap my arms around his neck. We walked back to the old, white farm house where Grandma had lunch ready. We’d wash up at the sink and then sat down and said the prayer. We ate our meat and taters and then it was time for our treat. We’d picked a watermelon—it was from the day before. The first bite was so sweet and juicy, I couldn’t wait for some more.
After a long morning in the garden, Grandpa lay down for a nap in his big, brown leather recliner. I'd curl up next to him and rest my eyes, trying to stay awake. Eventually, I'd drift into a sleep and dream of the next time Grandpa and I walked to the secret garden.
Some thirty years later, I toil in my garden, sewing seeds and pulling weeds. I think of Grandpa often and all the fun we had and all that he shared. I miss him very much. I wish he could see me now…out in my very own garden where the watermelons grow.