Grandson Elliot — who will soon begin his final grade school year — listens to the mourning doves’ call with me. A hummingbird works feverishly among the flowers as the sun rises in the cloudless sky.
It often seems that Elliot and I speak different languages. He plays computer games on a tablet that is often at hand. Superheroes, villains, and ugly beasts do battle against a relentless din.
I attempt to reach out across the generational divide to connect.
“Do you realize that at one time we did not have a television much less a tablet?’’
Elliott shakes his head in disbelief or perhaps in realization that grandpa is about to launch into a story that he has heard more than a few times before.
Dad had kicked around the idea of getting a TV for a while before taking my mother to the appliance store and returning with the prize. Their children had heard stories about Captain Kangaroo, cartoons and Sky King from cousins and classmates. Still, the notion seemed as foreign as indoor plumbing.
We waited for what seemed an eternity for the massive antenna to be affixed to the roof and adjusted to draw in the three available channels. We crowded onto the davenport and sprawled on the floor to watch the black-and-white world appear.
Rules must be adhered to. There would be no Saturday morning watching until chores were done. Dad had the unquestioned right to watch Friday night boxing and Sunday pro wrestling, and Mother Bishop Fulton J. Sheen sermonizing in front of the blackboard. Together we watched the news, which at the time often dealt with the communist threat embodied by Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Elliott steered me back to a present day filled with superheroes, villains with weird names and ear-splitting explosions. He reached the conclusion my childhood must have been boring.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Dozens of nieces, nephews and cousins visited on Sunday afternoons with each family contributing to potluck feasts.
The Hula Hoop craze, which was a masterful marriage of marketing and fun, turned the hilly front yard into a colorful place of multi-colored plastic circles. Corn cobs, with chicken tail feathers poked into the ear’s soft end, made whirlybirds that took flight.
Acorns and slingshots made from discarded innertubes upped the ante on cops and robbers and brought motherly fears that someone could lose an eye. Cowboy hats, six-shooters and gun belts invited Roy Rogers and Gene Autry to our yard.
The good guys — as is supposed to be the result — always won.
The modern day returns and because fair is fair, I watched Elliot play on his tablet.
The tablet’s battery needs recharging, and the opportunity arises to visit the garden. Elliot’s interest in the tomatoes, broccoli and peppers is minimal, until we come to the hot pepper plant. He is a self-proclaimed expert on all hot peppers and eagerly awaits their ripening. He is in training to prepare his taste buds for the tastebud burning heat.
“Can I taste one, he asked.
Patience and not instant gratification is needed. Waiting for the broccoli and tomatoes to ripen makes them taste all the better.
You know, I said, that getting your hands dirty in the soil is good for the soul.
“What’s a soul?’’ he asks.
It is not an easy-to-discuss subject, but I tried. It is as much a part of you as your eyes and ears, I said. Remember, ultimately good wins out over evil. It is not as easy to believe that as it was in the 1950s when Rodgers and Autry wore white hats and rode the range to thwart the best laid plans of black hat-wearing crooks.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.