Emily Bean, Earth Day & Me
Posted April 22, 2011on:
Little Maggie came running out of the Learning Tree Preschool School full of energy and a Styrofoam cup filled with dirt.
She announced there was a seed inside that potting soil, but did know what kind. Good enough.
Per her instructions from preschool, the next two days she made sure that the dirt was wet. Soon she was thrilled to find the first signs of plant life rising from the dirt.
Not having any thumbs at all, let alone green, we went for advice to our neighbor, Joyce, who is a magnificent gardener. Joyce pronounced it a bean plant, whom Maggie named Emily Bean.
Maggie carried Emily with her everywhere. And then the day came when Emily was out growing her Styrofoam britches. Joyce invited Emily to join her bean plants, allowing Maggie to do the honorary planting.
Emily grew as did Joyce’s plants until one day there was a not-so-rude awakening: the new kid – Emily Bean – was a pole bean among bush beans. And she got along very well with her cousins, the bush beans.
Maggie and Joyce watched the beans grow until one day it was time for the harvest. A proud Maggie came home with three beans cradled in her hand. She never wanted to eat them – just wanted to carry them around proudly.
If a pole bean can live peacefully with a bush bean, can’t we all get along?
Emily Bean was a parable for our time.
I’m not sure if that science experiment had anything to do with Earth Day, but I love that story and would love to turn it into a children’s book one day.
Personally, I have a shaky history with Earth Day. I haven’t exactly been successful in gardening – unless you consider hostas that cannot be killed with a stick or a stake in the heart. Oh, we try with a more than ample dose of neglect.
I remember one vegetable garden years ago that included zucchini. One time we came back after vacation and found a zucchini the size of the Hindenburg. It appeared to me like it was straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I freaked out, so Dick “took out” that overgrown squash Sopranos style, although no weapons other than a shovel were involved.
After that, gardening to me was just bugs and heat. Didn’t do it.
I recall the first Earth Day back in 1970. As a snarky senior at Ladue High School in St. Louis, I looked with suspicion on this Earth Day thing that was new that year. So when U.S. Congressman James Symington spoke in a school Assembly to us on April 22, 1970, I was cynical. I can’t remember what he said but raised my hand when it came time for questions.
“Isn’t this Earth Day just a trick by the government to get attention off the Vietnam War?” I asked.
He looked startled and then expressed disagreement with my question.
I had not only been snarky, I was ignorant. I didn’t know anything about what we were doing to our planet.
As our kids were in school, we sort of celebrated Earth Day. I remember one year we gave up paper napkins, using cloth napkins instead. Now that is dedication to Mother Earth.
And speaking of Mother Earth, that was the name of the best sandwich ever at the State Street Deli. I still miss it and my little joke of bringing in matzo sandwich into the restaurant so my sandwich could be built upon Matzo during Passover. I called it the Jewish Mother Earth.
Back to Earth Day, I have gone on campaigns of turning off lights and changing lightbulbs, although those new bulbs never last long for me. I think before I get in the car, although I usually get into it anyway. And I look at the grocery store to see how far fruits and vegetables travel to my table, hoping to buy locally.
I’m thinking my Earth Day grade is still a C at the most, maybe a C-. I at least know that what we are doing is bad – the weather is too crazy not to believe we are experiencing climate change.
Sadly, Maggie inherited my thumb instead of our those of our former neighbor, Joyce. Or did she?
Last weekend she took a bold step, or bold planting. Here’s what she posted on Saturday with this photo, “My first effort at ‘gardening.’ Wish me luck! I just hope I don’t kill them! I don’t exactly have a green thumb….”
I’ve heard that before.