Carrots, thought my eight-year-old self. How can anybody get excited about a sack of carrots?
But my Helmcke Grandparents could. I don’t remember where they had gotten them—from Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Benny’s farm, a flea market—Grandpa Peter was big on those—some discount produce warehouse?
Grandpa Peter’s eyes lit up, so did Grandma Alice’s, when they unloaded their gift on Mom. They were thinking meals, side dishes. Food to get us through the week; the winter if we were lucky.
Carrots grated, boiled, stewed and baked; tucked around roasts; shredded for carrot pudding, our family’s dessert on Christmas Day.
What about Lite Brite or a set of felt tip markers? What about licorice chews or meltaways in pastel green, pink, and yellow like Grandma Dorothy gave us? my eight-year-old self asked.
But these were our practical Helmcke Grandparents. They outfitted themselves in navy blue and gray polyester, indestructible miracle fabric that would last one hundred years and never need ironing.
Now I don’t think the Helmcke Grandparents’ gift was odd. I think their gift came from deep in their hearts. This is what you need to live, their gift said. This is what sustains you. You can live on this, daughter and grandchildren. You can grow.
Carrots. Such a simple food. Even I succeed growing them. They don’t need much. Sun. Sandy soil. You plant the tiny seeds one-eighth an inch in the ground. You barely cover them with soil. Within a few weeks, if you haven’t planted them in the shadow of a pea vine or tomato, they announce themselves. Their frilly green tops rise.
A simple carrot. One is much like the others. Nothing ornate or fancy about the ones the Helmcke Grandparents gave us. Their frilled tops had been lopped. They were dusty and tumbled willy-nilly in the sack.
We could make it through the winter on this. Maybe we could share some of our carrots and someone else could make it through the winter. Maybe the person we shared with would share.
Maybe if each person did this humble thing, shared one carrot, and gave it with a joyous heart the way our grandparents gave their sackful—all of us, in the whole world—would have enough. All of us would have something to eat. All of us would feel loved and cared for.