Updated: Nov 7, 2020
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
My mind was flooded with memories as I flipped through our old family photo album. I wasn’t exactly sure what drew me over to it; I hadn’t had the urge to look at it in years. I leaned back in the recliner, getting comfortable while waiting for my mother to finish getting ready for her doctor’s appointment, and took my time gazing down at the pictures.
My hand froze when I reached the page that held one of the last photographs taken of my grandmother and grandfather together. Eyes glued to their smiling faces, my mind drifted back to the summer when I was twelve years old. That year I’d stayed with my grandparents for almost the entire month of June year while my parents worked through their marital issues. I had no idea about the tension between them since my parents labeled their discussions as “not in front of the children” conversations, saving them for “behind closed doors.”
My grandparents were great, and the only way I could truly describe them were easy, simple folks. They loved the outdoors and owned a little house that was warm and inviting, nestled in the middle of a couple of acres of both cleared and wooded land just outside the nearest town. What a great summer that was, I mused to myself, gazing out the window as my mind drifted back…and back…and back.
My grandmother loved flowers and had a green thumb. She planted beautiful flowers as accent pieces all around their yard. Every day that summer, she and I walked around to appreciate their beauty and check to see if they needed care. Sometimes we watered, sometimes we cut off old blooms, and sometimes we gave them a little fertilizer to keep them bright and colorful. She and I also went on long walks through a meadow just behind their house. The most beautiful wildflowers were blooming one afternoon, and as we stood in appreciation of the delicate petals, my grandmother had wrapped her arm around my shoulders and said, “Always remember the lesson of the flower, honey: bloom wherever you may be planted.”
While my grandmother was an expert on flowers, my grandfather was an expert on trees. On one of our many walks through the woods, he would point out different types of trees, naming them and explaining how I could identify them based on the shapes of their leaves or needles. One day he bent down and picked up an acorn, holding it out for me to take. “Do you see how tiny this acorn is?” He’d asked. After I’d nodded, he walked up to a great oak tree, patted its trunk, and stated, “Just look what it can become. Mighty oaks begin as little acorns. Remember the lesson of the acorn, son: great things can have humble beginnings.”
That summer, I also learned about all types of vegetables and how they grew while working with my grandparents in their vegetable garden. Even though I was not particularly fond of eating vegetables, I enjoyed planting, growing, and picking what was put on the table to eat. I learned that different vegetables ripen, or as they would say “come off,” at different times, so the garden was planted in stages instead of all at once. I helped make rows, plant seeds and plants, string beans, stake tomatoes, pick vegetables, and chop weeds…and that weed chopping was the pits! I hated chopping weeds. As a matter of fact, I still hate chopping weeds! There was one particular afternoon where we were all using hoes to chop. I distinctly remembered grumbling, “It seems like we spend about as much time weeding as we do planting and picking.”
“That’s right,” my grandfather had nodded. “We have to get the weeds out so the vegetables can grow. We get the weeds out before they take root and take over.”
“We reap what we grow, honey!” my grandmother had called out.
“Life and the garden are a lot alike,” he'd continued, winking at me. “Planting seeds and pulling weeds so you can enjoy the fruits, or I guess vegetables in this case, of your labor!”
“So, remember the lesson of the garden,” she'd quickly added. “Pull the weeds out before they take root.”
My trance of reminiscing was broken as I heard my mother call out, “I’ll be out in just a minute!”
“Okay, Mama, I’m ready whenever you are,” I hollered back, shifting my gaze back to the photo album to take in the faces of my grandparents once more. Closing the book, I leaned back in the recliner. They really taught me a lot without me realizing at the time that they were actually teaching me. A flower, an acorn, a garden…all of these are just parts of nature that many of us look at but don’t even truly see every day, but each of them contains life lessons. Looking back now, I realize they showed me...
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THE TEACHER APPEARS IN MANY FORMS
WHEN THE STUDENT IS READY
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*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!