Eight Volunteer Pumpkins

And how they welcomed me home.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY BLANCE DERBY

The day my husband and I moved to our new home in Maryland, I fell off the moving truck and received a severe head injury, not the welcome to the neighborhood I expected. It was Spring—I had plans! There was new dirt to dig, native plants to get acquainted with, a new zone to grow in. Instead, I was admitted to a nursing home for rehabilitation and placed in room 16B, right across from the nurses’ station.

What was I doing there? I was a youngster—just 55! But I couldn’t walk, and I was going to need hours and hours of therapy if I was to become ambulatory again.

“Mrs. Simpson,” the nurse said, “you ready to bolt on out of here like them plants you talk about?”

Eager to be released as soon as possible, I went at my therapy full-throttle, my garden always on my mind. My husband was my only regular visitor; our family and friends were miles away. New church acquaintances brought me a daily devotional calendar, so I could pray the days away until independence. But most of the time I was alone, confined to my bed. Aching for companionship and conversation, I often told the nursing staff about gardening topics from aeration to zucchini.

The nurses’ station was always noisy and busy, especially during shift changes, even the one at 10:45 p.m. I could hear their conversations—loud, jovial, sometimes confrontational.

One night one nurse said to another, “Hey, Robin, 16B, whatever you do, steer clear of all gardening topics. I mean, she will go on and on. She couldn’t plant this and it’s too late for that. And, oh, those flowers Miss Pearl and Lucy got, she was growing them where she just moved from. I mean seriously, blah, blah, blah…”

When I heard snickers and agreement from other nurses, I was heartbroken—but it also bolstered my determination to get free of my wheelchair and back into the dirt. I redoubled my efforts in the therapy room. Soon I was awarded a walker.

Several days later, a smiling nurse checked my vitals, flipped through some papers, and then paused. “Mrs. Simpson,” she said, “you ready to bolt on out of here like them plants you talk about?” I said loudly, “Oh, my unplanted gourds, yes!”

I made it home, but needed continued therapy and care before I could walk unassisted. Finally the great day came when, using my walker, I made a trip to the garden. So much had grown! True, it was unkempt, but it was green and lush and alive!

I spotted volunteer pumpkins growing in my compost pile. I love compost volunteers. I looked closely and, with tear-filled eyes, counted eight perfectly round pumpkins soaking up the sun.

There was one pumpkin for each week I couldn’t garden. Eight weeks, 56 days, eight pumpkins.

At least my plants understood me.

This article was published originally in 2019, in GreenPrints Issue #118.


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