Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conversations With Zucchini

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while now.  I hesitated because I wanted to get an idea of what I would write about, making sure it wouldn't be of interest only to me.  My new year's resolution this year was to make time to write on a regular basis, and I have been rather remiss in making that resolution come true.  I thought this might be a good vehicle for keeping my resolution (albeit belatedly).

To start you off, I'm going to share a 100% true short story I wrote a couple of years ago.


*** Conversations With Zucchini ***

One day when I was five or six, my mom heard my voice coming from her vegetable garden.  Thinking I was carrying on a conversation with one of my many imaginary friends, she decided to get a closer look.

"You dumb zucchini!  I hate you!"
My mom halted her approach and peeked through the blueberry bushes to find her precious - make that precocious daughter sitting on a yellow stool imprinted with the phrase "Step up to be Tall.  Sit down to be Small."  Hands fisted on hips, chin jutted out stubbornly... there I was giving the zucchini vines a talking to.

"Why don't you just die?  I hate you, you dumb zucchini!"

Mom eventually managed to hold a straight face long enough to ask me what I was up to.  Apparently I had heard on the radio about a study which had found that playing music or talking to plants helped them to grow bigger and stronger than just letting them grow with the requisite light and water.  In my infinite wisdom, I decided that being mean to them would make them grow smaller and slower... even cause them to shrivel up and die.  You can probably guess that I was not a big fan of zucchini.

Unfortunately for me, the study never mentioned that any talking to the plants would do.  Mom's zucchini crop was larger and more plentiful that year than any before or after.  She was thrilled, while I was quite upset that my scientific study had failed.

When I was in grade one, our school librarian went on maternity leave, leaving a substitute to fill in.

One day our class invaded the library at our scheduled tiem, most of the students heading towards the corner where the picture books were shelved.  I made a bee-line in the opposite direction to the shelves of chapter books and junior novels.

I pulled up a chair and climbed onto it in order to reach my desired tome (one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books if I recall) and had just climbed down when The Substitute caught sight of me.  She approached with a disapproving scowl on her face, then as if speaking to a dim-witted toddler had the nerve to announce "oh, no dear... the books for you are over there!"  She pointed towards the shelves of books that I had exhausted the year before.  "These are for big kids."

In my house, reading was seen as holding as much importance to a child's everyday life as eating, sleeping and playing did.  I can't remember a time when I couldn't read.

Our usual school librarian held a similar view to that of my parents.  Children should be encouraged to develop a love of reading, and allowed to challenge themselves with new and varied materials.  She had always let me choose my own books, even suggesting new series' to sate my appetite for more literature.

I was not going to be told what I could or could not read, especially by someone who was supposed to help me find books that I would enjoy.  With determination, my chin jutted out, and my little hands balled into fists at my waist.

"I want to read this book.  Those are for babies!"

Before The Substitute could think up an argument to make me see reason, my first-grade teacher came over
and assesed the situation.  "Mrs. The Substitute, this is Janine, and I assure you she can and will read any book that she wants to read.  She's probably read more of them than you have."

The Substitute looked aghast and with an audible huff quickly found something that needed her immediate attention elsewhere.

The rest of that school year,
The Substitute ignored me, preferring to tend to my fellow students who had more "suitable" reading selections.  Thanks to the encouragement of my mom, my teacher, and a defiant need to show up The Substitute, I blasted through the selection of kids chapter books and headed into novels before the school year was through.

The following year, needing a challenge, I looked for the biggest novel I could find in the school's library, and ended up reading
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.  Reading that book required frequent trips to the shelf where our dictionary was kept, but I can still picture Nemo's view of the ocean floor as my young mind had imagined it.  Fish and other mysterious sea creatures swimming by a large round window, darting off to unknown places and adventures just waiting to be discovered in pages like the ones I held before me.

My love of reading has only grown over the years.  I still have a stubborn streak, and an inherent need to question authority and challenge it when it is abused. 
To this day, I hate zucchini - except when it is baked in zucchini bread.

A couple of years ago, when I was between jobs, my mom and I were driving past the local plant shop.  They had a sign out front claiming that they were hiring.

My mom turned to me and said "ohh look, they're hiring!  You should apply.  Tell them the zucchini story.  That was the best crop I ever had."

"Yeah, I'm sure they want an attempted zucchini murderer working for them."

"Or maybe not," she laughed.