TALES FROM THE CAVE FAMILY: LOVE IN THE DIRT
Another Family Night on Carissa
On January 5, 1972, Mom came home from work and got dinner cooked. My sister and I set the table as she cooked the meal. Mom whipped things together pretty quickly, as my sister and I regaled her with tales from our day. As all this happened, my dad watched the news, moving from the color TV in the den to the black & white portable in the breakfast room, when we told him dinner was served.
After dinner on this particular evening, Dad returned to the color TV to watch Hee Haw, while the girls cleaned up the kitchen. He loved that show, but the rest of us hated it. We were more interested in Night Gallery, which would come on shortly after Hee Haw.
As Dad enjoyed his corny country music show, my sister and I cleared the table and loaded the avocado-green dishwasher. Meanwhile, Mom cleaned the avocado-green stove-top, avocado-green Formica counters, and every other avocado-green thing in the kitchen, including the sheet linoleum floor that was supposed to look like small Satillo tiles, but, of course, in avocado-green.
Mom always remained in the kitchen long after my sister and I were released to join my father in front of the color TV. I doubt Dad stayed in the den with us very long that evening, however. He didn’t have much patience with fiction, especially a show like Night Gallery, which bordered on the paranormal. When we watched things like that , he often retreated to the breakfast room to watch the other TV.
As the family watched TV, Mom usually dropped into the den from time to time to keep up with the plot. She’d sport a pair of yellow rubber gloves cradled in her apron, to avoid dripping on the avocado-green shag carpet. Some nights, she would give up all pretense of cleaning and sit down to watch. And that’s exactly what she did on January 5, 1972.
The reason I know so specifically what happened on January 5, 1972 is because Wikipedia tells me that’s the evening Night Gallery first aired “Green Fingers.” In this episode, there was an elderly woman who loved working in the yard. The villain, an overbearing developer, was trying to intimidate her into abandoning her beloved yard. The little old lady continually thwarted the developer’s plans, telling him, “I have green fingers. Everything I plant grows.” That was Mom – everything she planted grew (with the exception of ferns, but that’s a different story.)
Our yard had gone from a blank slate to something Better Homes and Gardens would have been interested in, had they ever been told it existed. In the days before the internet, Mom pored over brochures and articles in magazines, newspapers and gardening books, to ascertain exactly what plant should be planted and when. She also haunted all the local nurseries. She was that customer we all hate, because she monopolized the only garden expert available.
A New Family Slogan
So, in the Night Gallery episode, the developer sent in a thug to “take care of her.” Only the thug didn’t kill her, he just chopped off her fingers. The little old lady eventually died from a loss of blood, but not until after she managed to plant her fingers in her yard. At the end of the show, a neighbor discovers the fingers have grown into more macabre version of the little old lady. The neighbors looks into the TV camera with abject horror and echoes the gardeners works, “She has green fingers. Everything she plants grows.”
Probably every other household watching this episode was gripped in horror, but not our household. We were rolling in the floor laughing. My mother rose from her chair and did a sort of Frankenstein walk saying, “I have green fingers…” My dad yelled from the breakfast room, “What’s going on in there?” and I tried to answer him, but he couldn’t make much sense of it between my guffaws.
From then on, the punchline from the show was liberally sprinkled into our dialog. There was no end to the gags:
- We’d tease Mom almost daily, as she headed out into the yard in her awful yard-working ensembles.
- When she cut through the cord on the the electric hedger (again) we’d suggest she plant it, rather than buy another one.
- When Dad complained the pile of dirty shoes in the garage seemed to be multiplying, we’d ask Mom if she’d been planting her yard shoes again.
- If something in the yard died, we’d suppose some stranger had planted it , because everything mom planted grew.
And on and on it went – when Mom got gloves for her birthday or food dye on her hands making Christmas cookies or pretty much anytime something involved growing, green or hands. We never seemed to tire of teasing my mom about her green fingers, any more than she tired of working in the yard.
Mom’s yard is still lovely. Over the years we’ve reduced the number of plants, pulled out ground cover and tried to tame the limbs on the trees, but Mom’s influence still seems obvious. If you love gardening, perhaps you’d like to pick up where she left off. I know she’d love to have someone care for her garden.