More Than a Tomato

This may look like just a tomato, but it is so much more! It’s the fruit of neighborhood, friendship, and long roots in one place.

One day in June, I was walking in the park near my home and ran into my friend, Mary Lou. Not that unusual, since we both live close to the park and enjoy walking. As we rounded the corner of the park by her house, she invited me to walk over and see her garden, so I did. (We share a love of gardening as well as walking.)

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Looking around the garden led to the gift of a tomato plant from those her husband had started in their greenhouse. So I walked home through the park, carrying a small pot with the tomato plant gift.

As I walked home and then planted the tomato in a pot in my yard, I thought about the gift of that tomato plant, because it represented more than just a generous gesture of a gardener. The gift of the plant reminded me of the gift of friendship. The friend who gave me the plant is someone I met and got to know when our first-born sons were entering kindergarten more than 25 years ago. Over the years, some school mom friendships have naturally fallen by the wayside as we have moved on to other seasons of life, but this friendship has persisted. It’s rooted not only in proximity and shared habits, but also deeper shared values and faith.

sunflower seedlyings june 25

The happy coincidence of my walk and the gift of the tomato plant also occurred because both Mary Lou and I have lived in the same neighborhood for so many years. Some of our long-time neighbors, and empty-nest friends, are deciding to sell the family home and downsize. Perhaps we will eventually make that same decision, but I am aware that restarting life in another home, another neighborhood, or even another city has a hidden cost: the loss of long roots in one place. How long does it take to replace a 25-year friendship? Forever? And not just one friendship, but the whole mosaic of people I’ve collected over more than three decades in one neighborhood.

Before that early summer walk, I had decided I wasn’t even going to plant tomatoes this year. My garden had already endured a major hailstorm, and a cooler-than-normal spring. I had waited so long to plant tomatoes that I figured it wasn’t worth it and I wouldn’t bother. Actually, I had just planted sunflower seeds in the pots I usually use for tomatoes. I squeezed the tomato plant into the pot around the sunflower seedlings.

I’m so grateful for that walk, that friendship, that garden tour, that tomato gift, and tonight I’ll savor the flavor of neighborhood, friendship, and long roots in one place.

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