My Inheritance

– Posted in: From my files, Miscellaneous

This is a poem I wrote in college, 1978 or 1979.

Stuffed Artichokes

Paring knife in hand
she trims the tough outer bracts,
peels woodiness from the stem.
I slice the top third off.
Her thumb plumbs the center,
pries the fleshy leaves apart.
Grandma’s hands apprentice mine:
lacking the tongue and time
of my ancestors, I learn their food.

Pasquale Porazzo sits:
pear-shaped, propped with a cane.
His nine children pose behind him.
Grandma is third from the left.

Many of them now dead,
their memories of his memories
punctuated with gravestones.
Grandma pulls a leaf back,
tucks a pinch of crumbs in.

This my inheritance:
to savor, to labor
for what is fleeting.

Josephine Porazzo LaFemina died yesterday, 98 years, 4 months, and 23 days old. She profoundly influenced my idea of what a garden should be. Long after she had any garden of her own, she gave me lily seeds, more confident than I was that I could grow them. I probably wouldn’t have even tried, except that in every letter, in every phone call, she wanted to know how the garden was doing. As my brother so aptly put it, “A lot of her is in me, and for that I am thankful. Those years of my young life when every Sunday she welcomed me and fed me are the foundation of my experience of family. Those meals are the meals against which all others are measured. I loved her and I will continue to miss her for a long, long time.”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Rosemarie (Kathy's Sister) October 16, 2005, 7:17 pm

The funny thing about Grandma is that she was always so modest, and I think she had no idea what an icon she was to her Grandchildren. I remember her more by smells – that of basil and garlic cooking in a kitchen, and at the farmer’s market, my other sister, Marianne, and I both simultaneously latched on to a bunch of Apple mint as smelling like Grandma’s yard.

OldRoses October 16, 2005, 12:24 am

My condolences to you and your family. It’s wonderful how her memories live on in her grandchildren.

Cynthia October 15, 2005, 2:21 pm

I went back and re-read the two articles where you talked of your grandmother and her influence on your life. The poem distills your love for her so well. I’m sorry for your family’s loss.
I have few memories of grandparents – they all died by the time I was six years old. You are fortunate to have had your grandmother with you so long. I believe that memories are God’s blessings and promptings.

jenn October 13, 2005, 12:18 pm

I too, miss Sunday dinners at Grandma’s.

It’s been two decades, and I can still see her kitchen in my mind’s eye, with her casually preparing the last bit of the meal.

I didn’t get the garden gene from her – I think that was the other side – but she taught me to be comfortable in the kitchen, and for that I am glad.

Alice Nelson October 12, 2005, 8:23 pm

I also inherited my love of gardening from my grandmother, though I didn’t spend much time with her (being in another town). But I remember the garden. She was English, so maybe that explains something. My dad was also a gardener and was proudest of his strawbwrries and his dinerplate dahlias. It is interesting where these traits of ours come from.