Looking through my photo albums I came across a few pictures of the garden in Bunnik, the house where I was born and grew up. It was a vegetable garden in the early years, when my parents were first starting out. It probably saved them quite a bit of money early on, although my dislike for green food definitely stems back to those days. Just imagine, row upon row of Brussel sprouts and cauliflower, all to be eaten before it bolted (went to seed). I spent many evenings looking at those hated sprouts on my plate, eating a few, knowing the remainder would return to my plate the next day until they were all gone. My favorite vegetable, string beans, would come along in early summer and I didn’t mind eating those day after day.
When dad was growing up, the youngest with six siblings, he tended a small vegetable plot in the courtyard of their home. A modest row house in the city of Utrecht, it nevertheless had a small patio and garden. They kept a few rabbits, like most people did, which ended up being a treat around the holidays. During World War II, the garden was pressed into service to provide as much food as possible. Dad, who was twenty when the war started, had to go into hiding together with his brothers as the Germans were rounding up people to work in their camps. His oldest brother died from tuberculosis early on in the war; a lack of food and medical help being the primary cause of death. On April 30th 1945, with the German army in retreat and Hitler committing suicide, dad came out of hiding. The next day, May 1st, would be his 25th birthday, and he would be able to celebrate his birthday as well as the liberation of Holland. Unfortunately, within hours of coming out of hiding, he was shot by a German soldier. It was a clean shot, right through his backside and his wallet (which I still have, with a hole in it), coming out the other side. When peace was declared a few days later and all of Holland celebrated, dad was recuperating from the gunshot wound.
In time the vegetable and fruit garden in Bunnik became an ornamental garden. Looking at the pictures I realize that dad looked forward to each spring as eagerly as I do. Everywhere tulips are blooming, mostly yellow (my mom’s favorite color) and red. Pictures of the summer garden show rudbeckia (black eyed susan), lots of Shasta daisies, liatris, a few petunias, marigolds and others. He happily tended the string beans off to the side of the garden and swapped vegetables with neighbors when they were in abundance. On May 1st 1995, we celebrated his 75th birthday and one of the gifts he received was a large package of bulbs. He planted them the next day. Eighteen days after his birthday dad passed away unexpectedly. When The Spouse and I returned to Holland for the funeral some bulbs were pushing their way through the soil. By the time we left, the first flowers were blooming.
This Father's day I remember dad, gone but never forgotten. Dad, my hero, the fellow gardener.