25 years ago, my parents gave me a book. I still have it.
It was my ninth birthday and I was already a gardening nut. Rather than rolling their eyes at my strange hobby or getting on my case for messing up the weedy little corner of the yard where I'd staked my claim, they encouraged me.
Dad had built me a little 8' x 8' raised bed probably a year or two earlier. I'd planted most every seed I could find in Mom's pantry. I'd left tools out in the yard, shared bitter little radishes with my siblings and bugged everyone I knew who had plants, plying cuttings and seeds from old ladies and asking endless questions.
It wasn't just my parents that encouraged me. Some time before I'd been given Florida Gardening, I remember visiting my Great Grandpa in upstate New York and seeing his huge garden. We picked beetles off the potato plants (I thought we were just "catching bugs" and was horrified when he dumped them all into a can of kerosene and torched them), ate berries, talked about the dirt and enjoyed the sun. He gave me a little bag of lime for my garden, along with a handful of beet seeds and told me to "keep growing things."
Another time I remember visiting my Uncle Andy and Aunt Lynn and seeing the big broccoli they were growing behind their house somewhere in Hollywood. Wow... I'd never seen broccoli growing before. It was amazing.
Unlike a lot of children, I was nurtured in my interests. I have parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that stayed married, did the right thing, worked hard and invested in the next generation. My garden is just a little part of a family legacy that stretches way back into the past.
This brings me back to the book. Though it was not for my age range and had plenty of technical information in it, I read it from cover to cover. Stan, if you're out there, thank you for writing this book. It was a big part of my gardening education.
That said, my very favorite part was just inside the front.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. I love you right back.