Ms. Johanna’s been telling me that the old straw hat I wear is too heavy to do any good when we work in the garden (it does just fine). She said she needed to teach me how to make a real hat but we had to have some newspaper, specifically The New York Times.
Mom adored and respected Mrs. McLoughlin but all her preparations belied a lingering insecurity from growing up poor, afraid of being considered shabby.
Ms. Johanna came upon the vacant lot on one of her walkabouts after she retired. Bamboo and trashed choked, it seemed a perfect place to park her considerable energy. She brought a machete the next time she came around. By summer’s end, the soil had been replenished and mulched Four raised beds overflowed with herbs, some beans, corn and berry bushes. That was twenty-two years ago. Now 82, she’s still working this portion of earth pretty much by herself.