Tammy SchmittGarden karma & the flaming tomato bomb

When I was a kid my neighbors had a huge vegetable patch that ran the length their backyard. Aside from tomatoes, I’m not sure what they grew. My brother and I would peek through the fence slats as the woman watered and weeded. Her tomato plants climbed six foot support frames, heavy fruit hanging from their branches like giant rubies. But we didn’t like our neighbors and, therefore, didn’t like their tomatoes.

Constantly deployed or on lengthy remote assignments, our father was rarely home, leaving our exhausted mom, who worked part time while going to school full time, to care for us alone. We should have understood or at least have been on our best behavior, but we weren’t. Bored, creative, and unsupervised to the point of becoming slightly feral, we took to fending for ourselves.

In an attempt to reign in our free time, we were given chores and my brother was asked to babysit me. He was 10 and I was five or six. Despite being ensconced in the relative safety of a military base, asking my brother to supervise me was like giving an arsonist keys to a match factory. We began to create our own fun by inventing games like Knife Fight, Food Fight (green beans aren’t as worthy a projectile as wads of peanut butter), and Road Flare. Road Flare resulted in a couch fire while Knife Fight gave my brother a permanent scar. But our favorite game was Flaming Tomato Bombs.

When we tired of chasing each other with sharp objects or swinging from shower curtain rods, we blew things up. Our favorite target was our neighbors tomato patch. Layers of Kleenex would be wrapped around a cotton ball, tied with string, and soaked in my mom’s cheap perfume. We’d run into the backyard, set them on fire, and launch them over the fence. The massive explosions we dreamed about never happened, but the nauseating odor of scorched tomatoes and perfume would fill the air. The woman would burst from her house while we ran for ours. Once inside, we laughed til we nearly peed our pants, and made plans to do it again.

A few phone calls later, our dad came home, our mom changed her schedule, and the party was over. Our dad was assigned to a new base and much to our neighbors relief, we quickly moved. I wonder sometimes how much good I have to create in my garden to erase the torture we inflicted on our neighbors. If I met them now, I’d apologize.

I’m sowing curly parsley seeds this weekend to help nourish the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars that are born in my garden. They always germinate but I wonder sometimes if they didn’t if a Flaming Tomato Bomb would be to blame.

[From Casa Mariposa]

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Tammy Schmitt

About Tammy Schmitt

I am a passionate middle school teacher and gardener. I've gardened in South Dakota, South Carolina, and in upstate New York near the Canadian border. My current garden, in an overdeveloped suburb near Washington DC, has been my most challenging. My desire to create a true refuge for our native birds and butterflies has helped me battle unpredictable weather and compacted clay soil. My garden isn't perfect, but it's always a beautiful escape. Read my full blog at Casa Mariposa.

4 thoughts on “Garden karma & the flaming tomato bomb

  1. What wonderfully naughty children you were! But my take on it was that at the same time you were developing a love of being OUTSIDE – something many children are now missing out on. Outside meant freedom from parental supervision, a place to experiment and somewhere your imagination could really run riot. Maybe today’s kids are finding that in their XBox games but I doubt that they’ll end up becoming gardeners,

    • Casa Mariposa on said:

      I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. We didn’t have a TV until I was 5 and we weren’t allowed to watch it during the day. A lot of kids today spend time outside in structured activities but not exploring. I love to be outside and get a bit stir crazy when I have to be inside all the time.

  2. Yes, sounds like you and me and my siblings spent time in the same naughty corner, Tammy. We too were mischievous, nay inventive, when it came to outdoor fun and prissy neighbours seemed to draw our attention most. One thing I recall being soundly scolded for from a fussy old woman in the street was squeezing her snapdragons so they opened and shut like a mouth. What kid doesn’t love that? She had a very ” look don’t touch ” approach to her garden, sadly. Luckily it didn’t affect my love of plants and flowers and here I am years and years later still unable to resist them when I see them growing.
    Julie

  3. Casa Mariposa on said:

    We would have had a lot of fun together. I remember having to apologize to a neighbor for picking her petunias. They were just too pretty to resist.

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