Small Potatoes

Small Potatoes September 28, 2020


Rose’s birthday came and went. We finally gave her the new bike we managed to get with a deep discount and a very big tip, to replace the one that was stolen in May. We’ll regret such a luxury. But today I went for a walk with Rosie biking beside me on a blue bicycle, her favorite color, weaving around me because she bikes much faster than I can walk. We stopped to banter with the Baker Street Irregulars on their front porch. We admired the leaves that are just beginning to turn and rejoiced in the cool of the air. And I felt the world was so perfect I would never, ever regret another thing.

The three-year-old Baker Street Irregular toddled over to examine the new bike as we went by. She could not speak or use the potty hardly at all this summer, until her grandmother put her on a bus to preschool with a mask on, praying for the best. Now she’s house trained and she chatters with anyone who will listen. She calls Rosie by her name, and she calls me “Dis lady.” “Hi, Lady! I’m talkin’ to dis lady.” She is one of those children formal schooling agrees with.

The skinny little boy who is nearest in age to Rosie was straddling the porch like a horse, boasting that he’s playing flag football now. The oldest, who is in high school but looks like she’s Rose’s age, was staring at her phone.  The three-year-old is so small that she had to reach up to touch the handlebars of Rose’s bike. The pedals are just about at her waist level. Her successor, the current youngest Baker Street Irregular, whom I’ve never seen up close before because of the pandemic, was sitting up on her mother’s lap on the porch. All the Baker Street Irregulars are tiny for their age except the baby, who is fat.

They are all happy and well right now. The school year is the best one they’ve had, because there are so few students per classroom and because they don’t send home any homework for fear of bringing the virus back on paperwork. They do the busy work at school, and they have all afternoon to play. I’m sure this will all turn terrible eventually, but at the moment, for the first time in any of their lives, they are doing fine.

I went home to my computer and puttered, as I always do. I admired the photos of the Friendship Room volunteers playing with local children who come to them for healthy snacks– some of those are the siblings and half-siblings of that poor child who was killed last month, the one I can’t get out of my head. Every time I think of him I look at the children at the Friendship Room. And I am angry, and I am filled with grief at the death of a child I didn’t even know, but I am also filled with joy that his siblings made it away from their mother and are going to be okay.

Just for a moment, in spite of it all, it feels like everything is going to be okay. Small people are happy, riding new bikes, eating healthy snacks, learning to talk on a warm early fall day.

I went into the kitchen and eyed my small potato crop. This summer was a great summer for the garden. I had gallons and gallons of bush beans, enough to bring the Friendship Room two big bags. I had an avalanche of summer squash in three different varieties; I shared some of that with the Friendship Room and ate far too much zucchini bread.  I’m still going through the onions and the Friendship Room got some of those. I had fresh basil for pesto whenever I wanted. I am still harvesting a soup pot’s worth of broccoli florets every couple of days and all the kale I want, and I have hope to harvest butternut squash before fall. But the potatoes were a sore disappointment. I grew them in a 25-gallon Rubbermaid with holes in the bottom, exactly according to planting instructions, burying the stems every time they got tall and cutting them back after they died off. And I only got two small handfuls of spuds, no bigger than a golf ball.

They are still sitting in the strainer I washed them in last night, under the disapproving gaze of the spirits of my Irish ancestors. I am a disappointment. I’m terrible at growing potatoes.

I had meant to have a sack of home grown potatoes for myself for the winter, and a sack to share.

How am I going to share half a strainer full of tiny potatoes? Perhaps I could mix them half and half with one of those sachet-sized bags of tiny multi-colored new potatoes from Aldi, my dented golf balls mixed in with Aldi’s pristine marbles, and give half of that away. It would make somebody enough for one stew.

And then I smiled, because it’s been the most successful garden harvest of my life in a year when I was so desperate to be able to help the community, and here I am literally fretting over small potatoes.

This is the most terrible, dangerous year I can remember. I’m sure things will get worse than ever before long. There have been so many horrendous things to mourn, lately. But right at the moment, we’re breathing free. The children in LaBelle and downtown are happy, playing in the sun. Everything that is enormous is enormously wrong, but everything that is tiny is happy just now.

This small thing is a great mercy.


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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