"...that was that, we could do no more—had to trust to sun and water and time..."
My first garden grew in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx where every spring my mother would order morning glory seeds from the P.S. 48 school catalogue, seeds that came in brown paper packets that arrived with our original order, names checked off—while other seeds didn’t do well, the morning glories never failed us. First we soaked the coarse black seeds overnight in a glass of water, (I wondered how she knew such things), and if I were lucky, the next day we’d plant the seeds in a cheese box that I had procured in advance from Mr. Kurtz’ grocery store at the end of our street. Those were the days when cheese arrived in a rectangular block and were sliced to order—thin, medium or thick—wrapped up in wax paper, folded and sealed, never knowing if Mr. Kurtz would heed my request, which is where I began to learn about the power of knowing what to ask for—brought the box upstairs to my mother and then we filled it with dirt—don’t remember where we got the dirt—prepared the garden bed for our morning glories, a box about a foot long and four inches high, made an indentation with the back of a soup spoon for the seeds that were swollen and cracked after soaking, pressed them into the prepared row and covered the seeds up, then placed the box outside the kitchen window on the fire escape—and that was that, we could do no more—had to trust to sun and water and time. Each day I got up, walked past my two sisters who shared a separate bed, and tip-toed out to the kitchen where I would go to the fire escape that served as a patio and a landing platform for sparrows. One morning I looked outside the window and saw the soil beginning to erupt, and even though I knew better, used my finger to disrupt the soil so I could see the sprout, bent over with its head still encased in a seed hat, until it tossed it off and emerged from the soil, growing long and spindly, with its own intelligence seeking a white string we had saved from a bakery box and thumb-tacked to the window frame—each day I’d investigate how much the morning glories had grown, for they were no longer seeds but seedlings and then plants, and in which direction they leaned. We had to thin out the seedlings, decide which one were most likely to survive in a Bronx cheese box garden, able to produce large blue blossoms growing along side our window.