A Persistent Yield
When I was very small, we moved into a very small house, on a very quiet street. My parents, my siblings, and I.
There was a very small garden. More like a large patio, with a tiny square of dirt at one end. I would later learn that it was the first garden that my father could call his own.
He had always wanted to grow food, so he planted food. In that first year, he tried to grow very little, and the garden yielded less. By the end of the summer, less than half a dozen courgettes, twenty cherry tomatoes, and a handful of runner beans were all that made it from the garden into my mother’s tiny kitchen.
It is normal for adults to pass on wisdom to their offspring. Often that knowledge is aspirational.
My father had a theory about human potential that he shared with me many times through my childhood. These conversations were less inspiring than I have been led to believe such conversations usually are.
My father’s theory about human potential was this: That exploring one’s potential is an exercise that should be undertaken with the utmost caution, and no expectation, because potential is not the infinite resource of legend, and in some folk there is a lot less of it than in others.
My father was successful in his business, and my mother was successful in her way, and we moved from that very small house into a less small one. And later on, we moved again, and again, and when it was finally time for me to leave the family home, the family home was quite large, in expansive grounds, in an expensive village.
My father continued to grow food in one corner of the garden, whichever house that garden happened to be attached to, and over the years more and more space was given over to those rows of dirt. But every year, almost without variance, the same harvest made its way to the kitchen and the dinner table. Less than half a dozen courgettes, twenty cherry tomatoes, and a handful of runner beans.
In the years where he tried to grow something else, either alongside those three crops, or in place of them, the different crop failed completely.
Still, my father persisted, year after year, because, he said, he enjoyed the process.
I have never really decided whether or not I agree with my father’s theory. I found my father, and to some extent my mother, complicated and difficult to fathom, and this is not something that has changed since having my own house, and my own garden, and my own family.
But for one thing. As conventional wisdom understands it, the parental capacity for love is not a finite affair, and from my experience I believe that my mother and my father had enough love for almost exactly two point four children. I believe this and I am the youngest of three children.
And as I type this, my wife is heavy with our third child, and I cannot help but wonder what my own potential for love is.
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