I have been enthralled all summer with my husband’s vegetable garden. He does not share my feelings.
I love going out when the early morning dew is still on the leaves and photographing the gentle fuzz on the tomatoes,
the mysterious world beneath the umbrella of zucchini leaves,
and the enchanting curlicues of pea shoots and watermelon vines.
But the garden may bring my otherwise gentle husband to violence. If so, it will be directed first at the chipmunk who sits atop the stone wall outside our kitchen window, staring back at us as we rinse the garden dirt off our zucchini. Chipmunks, it turns out, do not like zucchini. They love tomatoes. Tiny little Sweet Millions, Brandywines, and grape tomatoes: like Ebo, the chipmunk watchfully sits, waiting as red creeps its way up the green surface like a slow leak. Somehow, the chipmunk seems to always get to the tomato the moment it is just ripe enough; and somehow, this is always just hours before Ebo intends to “harvest”.
But were we to quantify the vigor of the egregious insults the garden has hurled at my husband, none would be greater than those surrounding his watermelon. His intended watermelon. He grew Sugar Babies; their graceful vines reached past the stone boundary, into the crabgrass walkway and well into the future, promising, or so we thought, a bountiful outcome.
When the first melon finally reached an adequate diameter, Ebo twisted it from the vine and carried it in front of him, cradled in his hands the way a first-time father carries his just-bathed slippery baby. He set it on his wooden board and made the first gentle cut… revealing creamy yellow flesh. A lovely color, really—but not for watermelon. It tasted as it looked; pale, wet and flaccid.
The other three melons remain on the vine, because surely all that is needed is additional ripening time. I don’t have the heart to tell him—this man who loves his watermelon — what he will soon discover for himself:
I have my eye on two beautiful tomatoes. So does Ebo, and so does the chipmunk. If only I had an invisible cloak, I would drape it over these young creatures and allow them to flourish in the sun and drink in the early morning dew until they are fully grown and truly ready to leave the vine.