A Reunion in the Herb Gardens

A family reunion in the garden

| February/March 1999

Between the lavender bed and the sage, the supplies for herbal “ancestors” awaited the eager children.

When my cousin and I decided to organize a family reunion of the descendents of my maternal grandparents, I offered my place for the event. Both my parents are deceased, so family has become increasingly important to me, and because we come from a long line of dedicated gardeners, this seemed the perfect occasion to introduce present generations to the pleasures of herb gardening. In short order, the cousins set the date, and I began to bombard our relatives with letters, updates, and e-mail.

I recalled the reunions I had attended as a child. I’d come away from them confused about how all those people were related to me—and amazed at the huge array of food. The relatives had patted me on the head, kissed me, and praised me with “Look how he’s grown!”

I realize now that this is part and parcel of every family reunion, but I wanted to give the children who would attend this one something more—fun and good memories centered in their heritage of gardening. I hoped that they could gain a vivid sense of our forebears as well as a feeling that folks young and old can enjoy plants and gardening.

In puzzling over how, exactly, to do this, I remembered a contest I was asked to judge at the Prairie Peddler Herb Farm’s annual festival: the kids had been provided with piles of straw, dried gourds, and old children’s clothes as well as small wooden frames, and then turned loose to construct miniature scarecrows. I adapted the idea for the reunion.

The family arrived from several states coast to coast. We were busy from morning to night. Many had not met or hadn’t seen each other since childhood. A new generation had been born and grown to adulthood since I had last seen some family members. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a tour of the gardens, and I enjoyed introducing my kin to the tastes, fragrances, and uses of herbs, many for the first time.

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