When I was a kid, there was an older couple living right next door to us who had a small, well-maintained backyard. I don’t remember the couple’s family name (or even their first names), so I’ll just call them Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Anyhow, I can’t recall much about Mrs. Jones because I hardly ever saw her. Even though there was a lovely garden in the backyard with a variety of vegetables and an assortment of pretty flowers, Mrs. Jones didn’t seem to take much interest in it. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, was an entirely different story; he was very passionate about gardening and ventured out into the backyard quite often. Much to our (the neighbourhood kids’) dismay...
|Tomatoes always bring 'Mr. Jones' to mind.|
You see, Mr. Jones was so passionate about his gardening hobby that he couldn’t restrain himself from sharing it with everyone. And I mean everyone – including the neighbourhood kids. If you happened to be walking by his yard while he was tending to his garden, he would greet you (that was nice), but when you stopped to say hello (because he was your neighbour and you’d been taught to be polite), it was his cue to begin the ‘all about vegetable-growing’ lecture (and that was not so nice). If that happened, you were trapped there for, possibly, the next half hour. And while Mr. Jones rambled on, always about his tomatoes (his pride and joy), you snuck a peek at the other kids playing outside who returned sympathetic looks (or amused ones), along with smirks and giggles and snorts. And no kid came to your rescue, not even your own siblings, if you had any. You were completely on your own; everyone kept a safe distance from the ‘unlucky’ kid who got ‘nabbed’ by Mr. Jones, the ‘tomato guy’.
|When I was in Montreal a few months ago, I took photos of the tomato guy's home.|
He lived on the lower level of this duplex. My family and I lived on the
lower level of the building to the left, which I'll write about in the future.
Sometimes, while playing sports, some kid would kick or bat a ball past Mr. Jones’s yard while he was working in his garden, and one of us had to go get it. But no one would volunteer. Some poor soul ended up going because it was his or her turn, or because she or he was the youngest, smallest or weakest of the group. And sometimes the turn was mine. When that happened, I ran as fast as I could past Mr. Jones’s yard to avoid being ‘nabbed’ by the ‘tomato guy’. Sometimes it worked and I got away, sometimes it didn’t and I’d find myself smiling stupidly while Mr. Jones rambled on about his tomatoes.
Other times, we accidentally kicked or batted a ball into Mr. Jones’s fenced yard, and a) if he was in there, you’d stand at a safe distance and hope he’d throw it back out or b) if he wasn’t out at that moment, you hoped he’d throw it out when he was in his yard. The worst case scenario is that he didn’t know a ball was in his yard and you had to approach him another day or later that day when he came out, and ask him for it. That was not something any of us looked forward to doing. If it was your ball, you had one of two choices to make: 1) ask for it and hope he wasn’t in the tomato-lecturing mood (which never happened), or 2) just forget about it. Many times, balls were written off if they weren’t important enough to retrieve.
Many years later, I realize that I now share Mr. Jones’s love for gardening, both indoors and out. And I can just as easily talk the ear off of anyone willing to listen to me ramble on about houseplants and spring bulbs and perennials and annuals and rose bushes and everything and anything belonging to the world of gardening. Because somewhere along the way I became one of the ‘old’ folks – people over 30. And I now share Mr. Jones’s passion for gardening.
This post is for you, Mr. Jones, wherever you may be...