Swinging on the swing set on summer afternoon I watch my father mosey out to the garden. Rows upon rows of tomatoes are harvest ready. Soon my mother and I would be in the hot, humid kitchen canning. But not this afternoon. Not yet.
He picks two tomatoes straight off the vine and walks back to the swing set. A red beauty lands in my lap mid-swing. I jump off, red beauties folded up in my summer shirt, and join him closer to the garden.
He pulls up two plastic buckets and turns them over to make a sitting area. This place is no English garden, no landscaped planned greenery here. But on this midsummer afternoon it is our sanctuary.
A tomato twisted off the vine, dirt rubbed off with a hankie, served with salt from a shaker stolen from the tavern bar is a meal of kings and queens. From our throne of plastic buckets we imbibe a meal robust, bountiful, and fresh.
My father taught me many things; some good and some bad. Some things I learned from observation, alert to any movement from his stoic and introverted self. My observations that day were simple. The summer sky, rain clouds stirring above, smell of vine-ripened tomatoes, tastes of salt and acid mixed as one, and my dad and I meditating on the summer bounty. We did not speak much that afternoon. We didn't need to. Everything was there. We had everything we needed in that moment of time.
Living in the big city I grow a few tomato plants, more novelty than sustenance. Cherry tomatoes are the chosen variety for my young. Few make it to the table. When ripened, I teach them to pick and eat, as my father taught me, right off the vine. I hope my father would be proud.
Happy Father's Day.