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Friday, March 9, 2012

"Yield"

It’s time to plant tomatoes. I saved seeds from my perfect little yellow pear-shaped gems last fall, and it’s time to start them again on the windowsill. This will be the second year I’ve managed success from tomato seeds, and I feel the joy of accomplishment. Hopefully they’ll be as sweet and plentiful as they were last year.

Cherry tomatoes make me think of Mr. Lutsch, who summer gardened on several acres next door when I was growing up. He was a horrible man, and I was glad he only lived there in the summers. My sister said he was from Transylvania, but I’m pretty sure he was an ex-SS German officer, or maybe Mengela’s evil twin – but he did grow very good tomatoes. He put baskets of his excess bounty on a small table flaking lead white paint by the road with a box for people to put money in in exchange for the produce. When the weather was still nice, I passed that flaking table every school day on the way to the bus stop.

I coveted the tomatoes. I burned inside for them. I think the main reasons I wanted them so badly is because they were verboten and because I hated the man so much. Before you think of me as simply a hateful child, you’ve got to realize that Lutsch was the type to get girls to climb trees so he could look up their skirts and tried to touch them when offering candy. Bad man. He deserved to get his tomatoes stolen, but I lacked courage to swipe them when he strategically placed that peeling table in view of his house across the street. My sister and I would discuss taking them, but it took Melanie to accomplish the deed.

I could write novels about Melanie. She was a colorful child, and let’s just say she had some anger issues she needed to work out. She lacked the normal sense of boundaries or a full understanding of cause and effect. It was probably a good thing that she was my sister’s best friend because otherwise she might’ve been mine, and then who knows how much trouble I would’ve found myself in. As it was, I was sometimes allowed on the periphery of Melanie’s exploits, and sometimes got tomatoes. Melanie was generous. We ran and laughed while German cuss words floated through the air behind us, and we ate stolen fruit at the bus stop.

Ironically, there wasn’t any need to steal tomatoes. We all had gardens with tomatoes in the back yards. We wanted Lutsch’s tomatoes. We wanted to make him hurt for looking up our skirts, or maybe for what he did at Auschwitz. I looked in the money box a couple of times. I was curious to see how much he was earning, but I never took his money. In my convoluted child thinking, I thought taking the money was wrong, but taking his yield was justice.

Lutsch and his codependent wife lived extraordinarily long lives, both living over 100. Maybe we helped by giving him extra exercise running after tomato thieves? I have to admit that I felt renewed irritation with him when the paper printed a celebratory article about the couple's 75th wedding anniversary. Melanie didn’t fare as well. She was killed by her husband a few years ago. She never did seem to get over her anger issues, or learn the value of cause and effect, but who would’ve thought that she’d be murdered?

This is a sad ending, but I like to think of those happy moments when Lutsch was yelling “Ach, ach, ach!!” (plus some words that I suspect were truly colorful in the German language) and the feeling of running effortlessly with Melanie when we were fresh-faced, laughing girls. I remember the best of Melanie when I eat cherry tomatoes, and my saved tomato seeds will ensure that my garden reminds me of her often this summer.

31 comments:

  1. Lovely! Makes me want one of my favorite salads, mozzarella cheese with sliced tomatoes, basil leaves and basalmic dressing. Yum! Good job.

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  2. "Only two things that money can't buy
    That's true love & home-grown tomatoes."
    -- or neighbor-grown tomatoes in your case.

    Poor Melanie... at least she got to experience some sinful deliciousness before she met her sad end.

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  3. Now I want some cherry tomatoes. Your painting is just really great, both the bright, perfect tomatoes and the sturdy little wooden crate. And with it, another strange and interesting tale with such colorful characters from a different time.

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  4. Really like how this was painted. Reminds me of pages in a children's book.

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  5. It's funny what can grow from tiny seeds - memories of times past and deeds done. Reminiscing of characters known and the tastes and smells of times past. It's like that with me over so many things: blackboard chalk dust, home made french fries, worms on the sidewalk after a summer rain and the chewing gum smell of a pack of baseball cards. Thanks Linda. Enjoyed your art and thoughts greatly.

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  6. You make my Fridays (or Saturdays - depending when I read your post!) Thank you.

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  7. I covet YOUR tomatoes. Beautiful! Mmmm. I love sweet cherry tomatoes.

    That was a sweet and sad story about Melanie. It's lovely that you have a way to remember and celebrate her every summer.

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  8. Your stories are so captivating that I almost forget the illustration! But that's not likely - nice tomatoes!

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  9. Thanks everybody! Now I'm smelling bubble gum and chalk Rand. Kind of makes me feel itchy :) I hope everyone's having a wonderful weekend!

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  10. My husband lived next door to a German man as a child. His sister was good friends with his daughter. Both my hubby and the sister swear he was ex-gestapo. Amazing how many of them went on to "normal" lives.

    Wonderful that you can remember Melanie in such a happy way. Turning her history around.

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  11. Your illustrated tomatoes look very luscious. Perfect for your tomato envy story line. Yes, life's stories don't always have happy endings. But I love your story telling.

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  12. My tomato seeds have already germinated, and I can't wait for my summer garden. You know, I never even had a fresh, garden-ripe tomato until I was a camp counselor at the age of 17. I had never cared for tomatoes, because the only ones I had ver had we the hard tasteless ones from the supermarket. Thinking back, that seems criminal somehow. My boys were raised on real tomatoes. We feast on them it the summer, and then just don't have fresh tomatoes the rst of the year. The same with strawberries and peaches and asparagus and.....oh, it is spring!

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  13. We were both in he gardening mood for this one! I love your tomatoes in their great little balsa container. I grew black cherry tomatoes from seed last year, but they weren't as good as my little Sun Golds...I'll bet I picked a dozen a day. Yum!

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  14. So far my window garden looks like damp dirt. Maybe I should've started them already? Wishing everyone a year of spectacular tomato yields! Thanks for the comments everyone!

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  15. yummmmm, tomatoes! I can't wait until my heirlooms start producing. My cherry tomatoes didn't fare well against some little tomato steeling creature last year. Every time I'd see a little green globe, it would be gone by the next morning, with nothing else having been disturbed. Apparently my mysterious little visitor had a gentle touch and a love of cherry tomatoes.

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  16. Something was stealing my tomatoes too, and what really annoyed me is that they'd take one bite out of a tomato and then throw it on the ground and bite another one. Grrrr....

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  17. Wow! This story has taken my emotions from A to Z. You've made me envy your artistic, writing, and gardening talent. You've taken me back to my own childhood; walking, talking, and playing with friends. You've made me crave a juicy tomato to pleasure my tastebuds. You've made me mad at sick-minded men. And you've made me sad that a precious life was hard and ended in a premature death.

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  18. Good lord!
    You certainly have had a number of colorful characters people your life.
    We all need grumpy bad people in our lives, hopefully at a good distance, for contrast and reality checking; lucky you! Yours was at a reasonable range away AND he came with Lutschious tomatoes.


    .

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  19. Your story read like something out of Twain...I can just see you running for your life with a mouth full of cherry tomatoes! Beautifully illustrated, too!

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  20. Delicious illustration! I love home grown tomatoes. Good luck with growing your's this year and thanks for sharing another of your enchanting childhood stories.

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  21. I am late with this week's instalment Linda. Those tomatoes really stand out from the page. I love cherry tomatoes. We grow a variety called Gardener's Delight. My Dad starts them off in his greenhouse and then gives me and my daughter some seedlings which we grow on. There is nothing like the taste of a tomato which has just been picked...mmmm just the thought of it makes me think of warm Summer days.
    Jane x

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  22. Lutschious tomatoes :) There's something that will stick in my head. Thanks for the comments everyone! Compared to Twain? Gee, see me blush?

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  23. Hay, you know as I was waiting for the page to load, I steeled myself for what small parcels of joy I would find in abundance

    and I found this poem

    'It’s time to plant tomatoes.
    I saved seeds from my perfect
    little yellow pear-shaped gems last fall,
    and it’s time to start them again on the windowsill.'

    Such a beautiful picture - and then I meet the horrible man, and I started laughing, so I will go and read the rest, it's like window shopping you know, the joy of thinking what might be next in Linda's amazing cabinent of reminiscences .... back in a sec

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  24. Well of course I wasn't disappointed, - amazing that you can make us laugh in one paragraph and then, in the very next make us sad for someone . And those Tomatoes - as Bella said, I covet them - I wonder if there is enough for both of us!!! The way they are glistening and bursting with goodness.

    PS thank you for your kind welcome back :)

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  25. Tomato thieves? That is quite a confession... And a most enjoyable read, except for the sad ending. But your tomato illustration is so fresh and lush, I could eat it. By the way, you already know this, but I wanted to formally tell that I have nominated you and this stylish and always beautiful blog for the Genuine Blogger Award. More info here: http://munchow.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/flowers-to-a-blogger-companion/. You deserve it.

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  26. Simple subject matter beautifully rendered! I especially appreciate how you painted the basket! Lovely!

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  27. Thanks so much everyone! It makes me feel good to know that more people know about Melanie. I can't wait for the summer tomatoes!!

    And thanks so much Otto! I just love awards :D

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  28. mmmmm .... your story and illo give me flashbacks to my own childhood .... driving to the Jersey shore and stopping at the farm stand for tomatoes and corn. Thanks for the nice trip down Memory Lane. (Only there was no Melanie there).

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  29. Thanks Mardi! I'm sure it was more peaceful without Melanie, but probably less interesting :) Everyone should have characters in their lives! I just can't wait until I get a fresh tomato again.

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  30. Yummy, can't wait to tast fresh tomatoes from the land. Lovely illo!

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