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A Lesson from Tomatos

by Elizabeth Spannuth

My step-dad has always been a bit loopy. When I was growing up he was moody and prone to episodes of what I now recognize as depression. Strangely, as he has aged, he has fallen out of that pattern. Sometimes it seems as though he is a completely different person, so much so that occasionally I find myself asking “who is this supportive and positive person?”

But old patterns die hard and they can rear their ugly heads at any time. They can complicate a simple and innocent thing such as picking tomatoes… Every year my step-dad plants what could be loosely called a “garden.” It’s more like a random placement of plants, some planted so close together that you have to climb inside the bush to get to the fruit, some planted in buckets and some just plopped down by the side of the driveway. These plants do produce some glorious fruits and vegetables, but my parents don’t care about harvesting them. Year after year I see perfect tomatoes and ridiculously large zucchini turn into worm food and eventually returned to the earth. This year I decided that none of their glorious bounty was going to go to waste. I would not only use their goods for my own benefit, but also for theirs. I planned on picking everything and returning to them delicious items made with their fresh goods.

At the beginning of the summer, I successfully picked the majority of their blueberries and returned to them a blueberry pie as requested by my step-dad. When the zucchini came in I took their mammoth sized zucchinis and returned to them homemade garden burgers and a delicious baked zucchini and pesto dish. My evil plan was coming together! I was making good on my commitment to not letting anything go to waste and I was giving back to my parents.

All was right with the world until the tomatoes came in… I picked the first round of those candy-like red fruits and came away with several boxes. I made a glorious sauce and tomato basil soup, which I again shared with my parents. But when I went back to pick the second round, I was met with an unexpected barrier. My step-dad had randomly decided that I was picking too many tomatoes. I was directed to only pick ½ of whatever was on the vine. Never mind that the rest would just rot and never be enjoyed.

As I was picking the tomatoes that I was “allowed” to have, my mind was spinning. Was I not to be trusted with garden vegetables? Did I not turn these raw goods into delicious meals? Was this not good enough? A part of me was flashing back to being 12 again and feeling as though I was held hostage by his mood swings. Just as I was working myself up into a ball of hostility, I turned a corner. I realized that my step-dad’s crazy is not my crazy. He is perfectly within his rights to reserve ½ of his tomatoes for the worms. They are his tomatoes. Granted his choice makes little to no sense to me, but it is his choice to make.

I immediately felt better and my annoyance and anger with him subsided. Just as you can’t take on someone else’s karma, you can’t take on someone else’s crazy; I have my own thanks!

Elizabeth Spannuthbelieves in love as a driving force in our lives. She is continually amazed by the humor at work in the universe and approaches things with a wry witticism. She firmly believes that love takes many forms as she herself has had many different kinds of meaningful, relationships.  She has said “I do” and signed “I don’t” and thanks the powers that be for giving her the grace learn from every experience. She has a varied professional background that includes performing arts training, event planning, sales and marketing planning and execution and serving as a whipping girl in corporate America. She is currently the Love Evangelist at Good Clean Love.