Early this week, as I was trimming some of the dahlias in the Clinton Community Garden in NYC, and doing some general maintenance, a lady whom I had never met before walked into our garden with her two small kids....
I was wearing my Mets hat, as usual ( a wool 59 - a gift from my son) and feeling good that the Marlins had taken it all - being a Mets fan gives you the Mets to root for and any team that plays the Yankees. There are a few Yankee fans in our garden community, and pay back, they say is a b-------.
But as the boy, all of 5 years old, was wearing a Yankee cap, I cut him a break and said, as he watched me, "Next Year kid." He said, touchingly, "Mets suck!!"
Blood enmities start early in NYC. Mom looked embarrassed and tried to shush him, but I waved it off and asked her how she was doing....
The lady said, "This is the garden that held the concert for the families, right? I'm visiting Engine 54 with the kids, they like to visit - we live out in Staten Island." Of course, it's that time of year, and we get some families that visit before or after they go to where Dad was before 9/11. So, with a catch in my throat, I asked if they wanted a tour of the garden, and they said they did, so I walked them through our Native American bed, volunteer beds, the behive, the herb garden, grape arbor, the winding path through our back garden's 108 individual plots, the bulletin boards, the letters from the firehouses on them, and handed a few of the dahlias to the mother and the non-Yankee hat wearing little girl. There were two kids t-shirts in the shed, so I gave it to them for later ( a cold day.)
As it was, a couple of firemen had walked down West 48th Street to take their lunch in the garden and recognized the lady and her kids as we finished the tour....the kids stayed with us as Mom picked up some sandwiches at the Yemeni deli on the corner, with the great Mexican sodas ( Jarritos Toronja is my favorite.) I kept gardening, and left the family and the firemen to have lunch - I recognized the guys from the last few Hell's Kitchen Heroes picnics we've held. To read more about how we reached out, please go to the "Firemen's Benefit" on our website- Clinton Community Garden .
The reason why I'm sharing this with you all, and especially those in California today, is because there are some huge fires going on in that state, and firemen are losing their lives. While 9-11 was devastating for so many NYC area families, and we lost so many firemen, NYPD, EMS and Port Authority cops the devastation comes down to us finally as families and individuals. And after all the speeches, and bagpipes, and folded flags, and insurance payments are made - it comes down to a mother, and her kids visiting Dad's old firehouse, and the garden that cared enough to pass the hat and say that they cared.
No community gardeners have big money, most of us are scambling, but we can write a card, pass the hat, and reach out to say that we care for the people who help us. Now I don't know if any of the California gardens are near the forest fires, but if they are, maybe a hat might be passed, a fundraiser held, and an invitation to your gardens extended to the firemen and their families.
When we held the first benefit - and ballplayers were wearing FDNY, NYPD hats during ball games, we were part of the mix - but we kept doing these Hell's Kitchen Heroes Picnics to remember, and welcomed emergency personnel into our garden to have a nice place to take a lunch break, give folks a chance to say hi and thank you to them. Having a truck or a cop car drive up and park for a while so these folks who smell much worse can smell the roses and maybe eat a sandwich is a lovely thing.
Back in 2001 - a burnt out, kind of cynical fireman - and could you blame him - told me that a fireman's benefit was "a bit of a stretch," but I see him come in from time to time, and talk about his tomatoes in Brooklyn.
When the fires are out in California, you are going to have some hurting people - where better to reach out from to that part of the community than your gardens? Even if they are Yankee fans......
Butting his nose in where he shouldn't, again,
Clinton Community Garden