Since we opened in June of 2013, I have spoken with countless neighbors and once-neighbors about the way our neighborhood used to be. They have confirmed what I thought was true-and what made the opposition we faced so disappointing- that EVERYONE had a garden... as recently as the 1950's. And people had chickens. Right here, in our neighborhood.
Yesterday, a new customer shared such a memory-but she added something special that moved me greatly.
She told me about growing up in the neighborhood with her English mother's "handkerchief garden" on a street with an older Italian gentleman who had a huge garden. He would sit in front of his garden-at the edge of his tomatoes and herbs and greens-and when the neighborhood children walked by he would pluck a sprig of mint and give it to them-and the girls would tuck the mint behind their ears. My customer's face brightened at the telling of this story, and i think we both shared in that intimate story-the pride of the garden, the colors of its plants, the kindness of the gardener's gesture and, of course, the scent of the mint.
As an archaeologist, I often imagine these intimate stories when I see an untended peach tree in a back yard, or puzzle over an interior fenced space with no apparent purpose or catch a glimpse of a grape arbor that now serves as a car port. I often wonder how many of our now requisite driveways seal in evidence of how we used to live?
You see, as one so precisely trained to notice the smallest traces over the largest declarations, I remain drawn to that which is the least obvious, to faint traces over bold evidence. I like our neighborhood's buildings-albeit admiring most of all the workmanship and skill they demanded of those who built them-but I love-love deeply-the spaces between-the places where gardens once bloomed and produced, where laundry was hung, where children played.
And I treasure even more the new stories we are growing anew in those re-discovered spaces of the in between.
Spring is coming, let us grow mint again!