As part of our special 25th anniversary year, each issue in 2015 will contain a piece by one of our four offspring about “Growing Up with GreenPrints.” So far, we’ve heard from the two oldest, Nate and Jesse. This go-round, it’s 28-year-old Sammy’s turn!
My dad started GREENPRINTS when I was four, assuming everyone’s math is right. I can’t say I have any memories of that specific day, but I definitely don’t remember any before that. For my younger brother and me, GREENPRINTS has always been there. At some point in my early teenage years, GREENPRINTS graduated out of full family production. My dad was—gasp!—hiring other people to mail out the mag and eventually even answer the phone.
So there is this soft memory haze over the time where everything was really done entirely in our home. I remember not realizing how unique that phase of my childhood was, that it was abnormal to have both parents at home, to have that much technology, to have Doug the computer guy come fix all that technology, and to have the chore of helping out with the family business. Interestingly enough, my siblings and I aren’t big techies now, even though we had a computer in the home well before most. Perhaps because it was so clearly for Dad’s work or more likely because we saw a lot of how frustrating technology was. I never saw my Dad yell at the light table like he would yell at the computer! When I was really young and Dad put the mag together on the light table in the dining room—literally cutting, pasting and gluing—the mag seemed to be magical and fun. He was creating it like a fancy scrapbook, and I could get my mind around some of the work that wasn’t boring.
Because, of course, as children, we did the work that was boring. As the youngest of the three that did most of the mailings, I was also the slowest. My former-camp-counselor dad would make games and races to keep us motivated: first to finish a stack of 25 renewal notices, first to find a zip code ending in zero, first to spot the first name of someone we knew! So beyond the memory of sitting at the table with piles of paper and envelopes, is the memory of losing all the competitions (though sometimes my dad would stack it so that I would win to try to keep me engaged and from running off pouting!). In terms of sibling dynamics, working on a mailing is a little like riding in a car on a long trip, except no one is allowed to read a book or put on their headphones! Look-ing back, what a Herculean task for my folks just to keep us from tearing each others’ heads off!
I’m sure my other siblings have mentioned it, but you really can’t look back at our childhood without talking about the phone. Thankfully, GREENPRINTS subscribers are on the whole very kind people…but still. When the 800 order line would ring, you’d call “Not me!” or scatter. My experience of getting stuck with the call was particularly terrifying because I’m bad at spelling!! I heard many a strong warning about the state of America’s education system because I did not know how to spell someone’s city. I learned if anything came up to quickly say “Let me get my mom,” in a super little kid voice!
But there were glimpses of joys and benefits. Besides having a dad who was around and had the flexibility to go on trips or be brought to school for show-and-tell (even though he didn’t fit in my cubby), there was a dad who was working hard for something he cared about. Once a year, for GREENPRINTS’S anniversary, we would go to Poncho’s, a local Mexican restaurant. As an adult, I now realize that Poncho’s was not very fancy or unique. But, once a year, GREENPRINTS would take us all out to eat there. We didn’t go out for food very much so that was special all in itself, but watching my Dad eat those chips and salsa procured from the proverbial sweat of his brow was amazing (don’t tell him they were free). He was so happy, so proud! Every few bites he’d say, “GREENPRINTS is paying!”
GREENPRINTS has grown; it can contribute more financially to the family now than one meal a year at a Mexican restaurant. It is still standing, improving, and winning awards 25 years later, which is an amazing testament to my parents’ work and the gardening community. It has given me so much more than dollars: It has provided job skills, taught me a work ethic, and helped shape my family and childhood. I am so grateful to all the GREENPRINTS subscribers who were so kind and patient with me on the phone—and who made my daddy’s dream a reality. ❖
This article was published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #102.