Seeds of memory

Weekend Herb BloggingBack when I lived in Virginia, back before Iowa was even a consideration, back even before I was married (because I was, once), my ex-husband moved into a squat apartment building with a distinct lack of personality just two blocks from the Clarendon Metro Station. He asked me to marry him in that very same apartment, and yet I still had positively no attachment to it when he moved out of there. As far as shelter goes, it was perfectly adequate. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

The apartment building might have left something to be desired, but just across the street was a fascinating house, rambling and big, sprawling across its own property in a comfortable way, and, in front of the house, there was a tremendous (at least for an urban lot) greenhouse.

It was the original home of DeBaggio’s Herb Farm, a true Mom-and-Pop operation run by Tom and Joyce DeBaggio. I did a little research at the time, and discovered that the DeBaggios had opened a larger nursery out in Chantilly, Virginia, but back then, you could still go into their yard and buy a six-pack of basil, or oregano, or any other number of herbs or other seedlings that they sold.

I never went in. I had no idea what I would do with a seedling, besides kill it. But even though I was not yet a gardener, I always walked by the DeBaggio’s house as if it were a church. On the right day, you could smell the greenness of the herbs, that moist, dirty (and I mean that in the best kind of way) scent that made it all the way to the sidewalk.

“I should buy some basil,” I told my ex-husband. “I like basil.”

But I didn’t buy anything. I was afraid I’d kill whatever I’d buy, and I didn’t have a pot, and I didn’t have dirt or know where to buy dirt, and I didn’t have a spade. So I just walked by, and bowed my head, and wished I was worthy.

Last night, as I bustled around the house folding laundry and packing a lunch for today, I turned on a podcast that had been sitting on my iPod since May 23. I hadn’t even looked at the full title in iTunes or on the iPod, but remembered catching a glimpse of “Revisiting Tom DeBaggio…” and thinking that the name sounded familiar and that I should make a point of listening to it.

It was just seconds into the broadcast before I realized what I was hearing, that this was the same Tom DeBaggio who, with his wife, lovingly tended to that church of herbs that I had so long ago wished I could enter. I sat down on my bed, stunned, listening to his wife talk about his brave fight with Alzheimer’s and listening to him talk about it himself. For a second, I could have been there, back on that street, back in that neighborhood that I know so well—from living there, from eating there, from singing just around the corner with my band back in the day.

And just tonight, as I set out to write this post, I went to the NPR site to look for the proper link to the podcast, in case there are those who want to check it out. It came out as part of the Driveway Moments podcast series, which are stories that listeners recommend because they heard them and stayed in their cars until the story was over. This one? Recommended by a listener in Iowa. In Eastern Iowa. One who listens to the same NPR station that I do.

So, thank you, Julie, wherever you are out here in this part of the Midwest. Because while Tom DeBaggio’s memories are slipping away from him, your recommendation allowed me to stop for a minute, and to revisit memories of my own and marvel at the spider web of connections that tie us all together, and to send some good thoughts, like seeds, in the direction of him and his wife and family.

This is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Ulrike from Kuchenlatein. Please stop by Ulrike’s blog later in the weekend for the full round-up of posts.

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15 Responses to “Seeds of memory”


  1. 1 Lydia June 9, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Beautiful post, Genie.

  2. 2 Libby June 9, 2007 at 6:01 am

    What a great post. I heard this segment when it originally broadcast on 910 am. I didn’t recommend it and had forgotten hearing it until seeing your post this morning, but was struck by it when I first heard it. How interesting that you have this connection and how it brought you back and connected you to where you are?

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Lydia, thanks so much.

    Libby, it was incredibly interesting, particularly since I hadn’t thought about that house in years…

  4. 4 Popo June 9, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Genie, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…You are the best!

  5. 5 Trey June 9, 2007 at 9:27 am

    Love the reference to the spider web of connections that tie us together. Blogging makes it possible to expand those connections. As more of us become connected friendships blossom and the world becomes a little smaller, yet just as mysterious.

    Good post Genie!

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Popo, you’re a sweetie — thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

    Trey, you’re absolutely right — I love the connections blogging has brought me…it’s been a valuable addition to my life.

  7. 7 Katiez June 9, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Life does work in mysterious, sometimes scary, somtimes wonderful, ways. That’s what makes it fun!
    Great post. Are you now growing basil?

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Katiez, it definitely makes it fun. And yes — I have quite a bit of basil going, actually. No purple basil anymore, but at least plenty of the green kind!

  9. 9 Kalyn June 9, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Whoa, you can really write! Great post.

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Kalyn, thank you so much…I really appreciate the compliment! :-)

  11. 11 Sally June 10, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Beautiful, beautiful post Genie.

  12. 12 Gretchen June 10, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    I can’t imagine losing someone little by little. Such strength to share it with others.
    I can’t imagine losing myself little by little. Such valor to open that up to strangers.
    Thank you for writing about the podcast. I listen to NPR radio a lot, I had not heard this. It was very moving.

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener June 10, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Sally, thank you so much for the compliment. :-)

    Gretchen, I know…I cannot imagine what it must feel like to either be losing myself or losing someone else like that. I’m glad you got the opportunity to listen — it’s a powerful story.

  14. 14 Jenny June 11, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Good work, girlfriend. I enjoy all of your posts, but this was a keeper.

  15. 15 inadvertentgardener June 11, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks, Jenny — I appreciate it. :-)


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