Dear Yiayia,

Who taught you to garden?

It couldn’t have been your grandmother — left, as she was, to perish in the old country.

Was it your mother? Perhaps with a wisdom bestowed on her by hers?

Did you learn in the ’30s or ’40s? Or the ’60s, when you were a young working mother with your own yard?

Did you study your mother while she pruned a rosebush? Plucking fat pears from her backyard tree? Were you inspired by her flowering Christmas cactus, aflame each winter with pink blooms?

Or maybe you learned somewhere else?

From a neighbor?

From a book?

Or from a small glowing rectangle that you carried in your pocket, which coordinated with satellites to track your every move, allowing you unprecedented access to all manner of info about soil, water, plant care — much of it relayed in vivid rectangular demonstrations of about four minutes or less (underscored with upbeat music, studded with quick sales pitches so identical to your desires that you became convinced of and then inured to the fact that a fleet of anonymous hucksters regularly read your mail), narrated by an infinite line of straw-hatted strangers arranged in descending order of popularity, who each, upon concluding, softly beg you “subscribe” — a glowing rectangle which nearly everyone in your generation felt obligated to purchase and carry, upon which you bludgeoned your eyesight daily in order to read 1000 variations of the same five confusing sentences about whether the tiny, faceless orange balls that appeared on the milkweed last week are aphids, and if they are, what aphids are exactly, and if it is really safe or not to rub dish soap all over a plant in order to get them to go away (which was incorrect, as the whole milkweed the next day turned black and died) — a rectangle which you felt sure must be bookmarking an enormous number of your cells for future cancer, but which maintained such a tyranny over your relationships, sexual urges, spiritual questions, and, yes, nascent curiosity about botany that you kept returning to it, as to your high school boyfriend (himself now an app developer) long after high school ended — hoping for joy, but stepping away groggy, with a filmy sense that you had once again given an undeserved handjob, and learned nothing real about basic gardening, let alone the building of a sanctuary to fulfill an ornery ancestor’s total non-sequitur of a dying wish?


Probably it was your mother then, right?

That’s nice.

That sounds nice.

Miss you,