It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…Holiday Confusion…I Mean, Halloween

I’ve been out and about quite a bit during the past week and I’m a little bewildered by the merchandise for multiple holidays that’s in the stores right now.  I’ve been seeing Halloween items since August, but now there are Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations too.  I can only imagine what a headache this is for the store managers…and how confusing it must be for young children.

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When I was a girl, Halloween costumes and decorations didn’t appear in stores until October 1st.  Thanksgiving items would wait until Halloween was over, and Christmas shopping began the Friday after Thanksgiving…Black Friday, it was called.  There was a clear boundary between holidays and each one was exciting because we had the anticipation of waiting for them to arrive on our calendars as well as in our stores.

It’s time for Halloween and the other holidays can just wait their turns.  For me, Halloween has always been about three things…choosing and carving a pumpkin, dressing up like someone else, and then there’s the candy.  I’m not sure which I like better.  On second thought, it was definitely the candy.

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When we were kids, my brothers and I would each get to pick out a pumpkin and then we would spread newspapers over the kitchen table so we could carve them.  I would draw different face ideas on paper until I decided what kind my pumpkin would have that year.  After that, it was time to scoop out the goop and begin carving.  There’s nothing like holding a big handful of stringy, seedy, slippery pumpkin guts!

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Halloween 016 My favorite costume was a witch, but over the years I was also a gypsy, a hobo, a princess, a hillbilly, a baseball player, a cowgirl, and a girl from the 1950’s with a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.  How fun and charming it was to transform ourselves into someone else for one night a year!

Halloween meant trick-or-treating with our cousins up and down the country roads where we lived.  It started as soon as darkness fell on Halloween night and lasted all evening…or until people ran out of candy and turned their porch lights out.  My cousins and I would use a pillowcase for our candy collecting and many a year I lugged home a very heavy pillowcase full of candy and caramel apples and popcorn balls.  Yum!

When we returned home, my brother and I would hand over our loot for mom and dad to do a “safety check” for razor blades and torn wrappers, and then it was time for the big dump on the living room floor so the sorting and trading for favorites could begin.

So, I’ve been celebrating Halloween for 50 years and I still consider it great fun.  This year, I’m going to dress up…probably as a witch…and pass out candy.   Last month for my son’s costume wedding reception, I got to practice for Halloween and dress up like a zombie!

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One of the traditions we keep in my family is to pass out full-size candy rather than the little fun-size pieces.   And for those who want to pass out healthy stuff I say, “Just don’t.”  This is HALLOWEEN and it’s about CANDY.  I still remember how disappointing it was to my children when they would receive a box of raisins or a granola bar or a microwave pack of popcorn.  As my daughter said, “It doesn’t matter if there is a pumpkin on the packaging…no one wants microwave popcorn for Halloween.”

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According to the National Confectioners Association, 72% of Americans prefer to eat chocolate on Halloween. And, the top 10 candies given out on Halloween are:

  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  2. M & M’s
  3. Snickers Bars
  4. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
  5. Kit Kat Bars
  6. Twix Bars
  7. 3 Musketeers Bars
  8. Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Crème Bars
  9. Milky Way Bars
  10. Almond Joy Bars

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At my house, trick-or-treaters will get M & M’s or Sour Skittles this year.  And in case you are wondering what kinds of characters might show up at your door this year, here are the top 15 Halloween costumes for 2014:

  1. Characters from the movie, Frozen
  2. Zombies
  3. Ninja’s
  4. Pirates
  5. Clowns
  6. Witches
  7. Vampires
  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  9. Book of Life movie characters
  10. Flappers
  11. Batman
  12. Despicable Me
  13. Maleficent
  14. Monster High Doll characters
  15. Star Wars characters


Finally, remember what I said about candy substitutes for Halloween?  I will leave you with my favorite Halloween story from my own children.  My son loved to trick-or-treat and he and his group of friends would go together every year well into high school.  One year, when he was a teenager, he decided to be a gorilla for Halloween.  I told my close neighbors to watch for the very tall gorilla and they would know it was my son’s group.  When they trick-or-treated the neighbors’ houses, his friends all received candy and my son, the gorilla, was given a banana.  He was not amused but I still laugh about that to this day!

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Have a fun and safe Halloween and enjoy your neighbors.  Next month, when the time is right, we will talk turkey about Thanksgiving!

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Got Pumpkins…How About Canned Goods?

One of my favorite things about this time of year and the changing of the seasons is the annual quest for pumpkins for Halloween.  I remember many a fine fall day in Michigan taking a hayride with my kids out to the pumpkin patch, then wandering and searching through the pumpkins until everyone found their “perfect” one!



For the past several falls, I’ve noticed that a church in our community sells pumpkins.  Yesterday, my husband and I stopped at Trinity United Methodist Church to buy our pumpkins for Halloween.  (If you live in the North Texas area, you can get your pumpkins there too.  They are located at 633 Hobson Lane in Denton.  You can’t miss the sea of orange!)

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The folks at Trinity told us this is the 9th year for their pumpkin patch sale, and the proceeds go to fund student life programs and mission trips for the youth in their congregation.  They get their pumpkins from an Indian reservation in New Mexico and this year they received over 3000 pumpkins…not counting the tiny pumpkins and miscellaneous gourds that also make up their fun sale.

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Many volunteer hours from both the youth and adults of the church go into making their pumpkin fundraiser successful.  Volunteers unloaded the truck full of pumpkins…wish I could have seen that…and then work the sale which lasts from the first week of August through October 31st.  Volunteers sell pumpkins and gourds and also turn the unsold pumpkins regularly so they don’t collect moisture and develop soft spots.

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When we walked up to look at the pumpkins, we had passed an interesting painted board and an old scale.  We asked the pumpkin patch volunteers about it and found that along with their pumpkin sale, the church has also been hosting a “Fill the Pantry” community challenge.

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Their goal was to raise 50,000 pounds of non-perishable foods for the local food pantries.  According to volunteer, Nancy Flanagan, they exceeded their goal on Saturday afternoon and are still receiving food donations.  At last count, they were at 64,000 pounds.

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I don’t know about you, but I love this.  I love the good work Trinity UMC is doing and I love that they have included the community in their efforts.  There is nothing more effective than the collective power of a well-organized group executing a mission with a clear goal.

Americans are the most generous people in the world.   Last year as a country, we (corporations and individuals) donated $335 billion to charity.  As we head into this holiday season, the need in each of our communities will be great.

Unless the United States Postal Service is having their food drive or someone specifically asks for a donation, I sometimes forget about the local food pantries and the people in our community who don’t have the luxury of knowing where to find their next meal.

Yesterday afternoon, I called seven local food pantries and asked them how people can help and what kinds of items they need the most.  With the holiday season and cold weather coming, all of them are in need of food donations. I found that items with meat and protein are often the most expensive and what they need most.  This would include things like peanut butter, beef stew, canned ham, canned tuna, and chili, but they are also in need of other non-perishable items such as rice, beans, pasta, and canned fruits and vegetables.

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Some food pantries include toiletries in their giving and will accept donations of toilet paper, diapers, and feminine hygiene products.  Several of the places I called said they can also use the help of volunteers.  A number of them plan to put together turkey baskets for Thanksgiving and need volunteers to pack and deliver them to needy families.

We are all busy but everyone has some time to help their neighbor.  We give however we can depending on our current situation. In the past, I know that sometimes I’ve been able to help with money, sometimes with food, and sometimes with my time.

I encourage you to call the food pantry in your community and see what kind of help they need and what you can do.  I’m going to help.  How about you?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

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 For my local North Texas friends, here’s a list of some of our local community food pantries:

Antioch Arms Community Outreach (Antioch Christian Fellowship) 2020 Post Oak Road, Corinth, Texas  76210


Hours:  Fourth Saturday of the month 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Asbury Relief (Asbury United Methodist Church) 117 Hercules Lane, Denton, Texas  76207


Hours:  Monday 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Bread of Life Ministry (Open Range Cowboy Church of North Texas) 7290 Hawkeye Road,

Krum, Texas  76249


Hours:  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:30 a.m.  – 2:30 p.m. or by appointment


Denton Food Center  109 W Sycamore, Denton, Texas  76202


Hours:  Monday – Friday 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


First Refuge (First Baptist of Denton) 1701 Broadway Street, Denton, Texas  76201


Hours:  Monday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Wednesday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Thursday 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Lake Cities Community Food Center (Lake Cities United Methodist Church) 300 East Hundley, Lake Dallas, Texas 75065


Hours:  Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


Living Water (Lifegate Church) 3350 Deerwood Pkwy, Denton, Texas  76208


Hours:  Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Myrtle Lee Lynch Food Pantry (First Baptist Church Argyle) 414 N. Hwy 377,

Argyle, Texas  76226


Hours:  Monday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Salvation Army Denton Corps 1508 E. McKinney Denton, Texas  76202


Hours:  Wednesday and Friday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.


Singing Oaks Church of Christ Benevolence Ministry 101 Cardinal, Denton, Texas  76209


Hours:  Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Vision Ministries (Denton Bible Church) 626 Wainwright Street, Denton, Texas  76201


Hours:  Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

and Thursday 12:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m


And Zombies Came to the Wedding!

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My son, Matthew, and his new wife, Alysse, met when they were freshmen at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Alysse was on Facebook trying to find someone else and friended Matt.  He asked who she was.  They decided to meet for ice cream.  She told her best friend she had met a really hot guy.  After that, they began dating.

Matt thought Alysse was both smart and beautiful.  She was great fun to be with and liked many of the same things he did…family, video games, sports, movies, music, Harry Potter, and holidays…especially Halloween.

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It wasn’t an easy or a straight road.  They were young and had maturing to do.  They were smart and ambitious and each had their own plans.  They both worked really hard to achieve the goals they had set for themselves.  They dated.  They broke up and dated others.  They came back together…they were drawn to one another.

They dated for 8 ½ years; engaged for the last four of them.  During the years they dated, there were two undergraduate degrees earned, one master’s degree achieved, a graduation from medical school, one rock opera written, a sorority joined, two pigs, a house, the divorce of one set of parents, the sudden death of an uncle, lots of travel, a hospital stay for Alysse, Matt was a member of two bands at the University of Michigan, and they had fun Halloween parties every October.

Matt and Alysse got married last weekend.  It was the second wedding in three months for one of my children.  2500 miles of driving there and back, but this time, we got to see the beautiful fall colors of the Midwest during the drive.  We also got to experience a wedding like none I’ve ever seen before.

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It was the wedding of two very special people who made their wedding day beautiful and fun and quirky and smart and memorable. It was the day they both wanted.  And their family and friends were there to love and support them…with almost everyone accepting the challenge on the wedding invitation to “come in costume if you dare.”

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Just as Matt had done for his brother in July, Ryan was Matt’s best man.  Matt’s sister, Anna was a bridesmaid and sang “Love Me Tender” a cappella and beautifully.  Alysse’s brother, Alex, was one of Matt’s groomsmen.  Consistent with the nature of the event, there was a ring bear instead of a ring bearer, and the flower girl was a 20 something friend of the couple who came in a (fairy?) costume and joyfully tossed rose petals in the air as she fluttered down the aisle.

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Alysse walked down the aisle on her father’s arm to “Domino” by Jessie J.  And Matt, handsome as ever in his dark suit, was ready to take the hand of his stunning bride in his.  They wrote their own vows to one another and at the end of the ceremony Matt broke a glass in honor of Alysse’s Jewish heritage on her father’s side.  I had to look this tradition up because I wasn’t familiar with it.  I found out that the breaking of the glass symbolizes the fragility of relationships, and is meant to remind us that the couple should enjoy every day together and treat their marriage and relationship with special care.

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The wedding was held at Detroit’s Belle Isle…a beautiful 982 acre island park which sits in the Detroit River between the United States mainland and Canada.  It is connected to Detroit by the MacArthur Bridge. Besides the Belle Isle Casino where Matt and Alysse had their wedding and their reception, the island park is home to an aquarium, a conservatory, a nature zoo, the Detroit Boat Club, a museum, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and numerous monuments, a Coast Guard station, a golf course and a half mile long swimming beach.  It was an incredible setting for such a fun event!

Belle Isle

There was an hour between the wedding and the reception.  That gave the parents (and one grandparent) the time to change into costumes.  My husband and I became a zombie cowboy and cowgirl.  Being from Texas, we thought that was appropriate.

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When all the guests were seated at their tables for the reception, the bridal party was announced.  During the break, a professional makeup artist had transformed them all into zombies.  When the zombie bride and groom came in, they danced their first dance together, and then the whole wedding party did the Michael Jackson Thriller Dance.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much!

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The venue was decorated in classic Halloween style and I even recognized a few decorations I had given the couple from my own collection.  They had seven buckets of candy around the room for trick-or-treating stations, and a photo booth where guests could have their pictures taken with zombie cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom.  Each picture taken had two copies made…one for the newlywed’s wedding scrapbook, and one for the guest to take home as a souvenir.  There was a psychic on one end of the room who did readings for guests all evening.  She told me I have nine grandchildren in my future.  All I can say to that is, somebody better get busy!

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It was a day and a night to remember and here are the snapshots of things I will keep:

*The moment in the afternoon when Alysse came down to the hotel lobby in her wedding gown so Matt could see her for the first time.

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*The beautiful Belle Isle venue and all the fun wedding decorations.

*Alysse’s parents, Suzy and Lonny, and their family telling me how much they loved Matt.

*The bride and the groom speaking the vows they had written to one another.

*Matt’s sister, Anna singing for the brother and sister-in-law she loves so much.

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*Ryan’s words when he toasted the newlyweds and said his brother, Matt had always been his best friend.

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*Alysse’s father calling Alysse his “pride and joy” and speaking of his and his wife, Suzy’s love for her and for Matt.

*Sitting next to Alysse’s mom, Suzy, at the reception and talking quietly together while we watched all the fun going on around us.

*Dancing with my zombie son while my zombie daughter-in-law danced with her father at the reception and seeing the happiness on both of their faces.

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*The music and the dancing at the reception…the joyful dancing of young and old, friends and family, in costume, who all came together to celebrate the union of two people they care about and making the day exactly what they had hoped it would be.

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*Five of us missing the last shuttle bus and being rescued by the psychic, Laura, who was kind enough to drive us all to the hotel before she headed home.

And finally, I will remember Alysse’s words to me the night before the wedding… “Matt is my perfect complement and everything I’ve ever wanted and I can’t imagine my life without him.  I am so excited to officially be a part of the family, although you have already made me feel like it for years.”

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Author’s note:  I think I hit the daughter-in-law jackpot in July and again in October.  I’m one lucky mom!

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Farm To Market

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This beautiful farmers’ market stamp came out on August 7th of this year.  The illustrations were done in acrylic paint by Robin Moline and they show the offerings of a typical farmers’ market.

In 1976, our U.S. Congress passed the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act.  Its purpose was to help farmers sell their goods for the mutual benefit of both the farmers and consumers like you and me.  A few years later, the Farmers Market Promotion Program was established to provide competitive grants to increase and strengthen direct producer-to-consumer marketing channels.

They say “everything old is new again” and farmers’ markets are one of those things.  Outside markets and roadside stands were once the way Americans shopped and now they are back and better than ever.

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Farmers’ markets serve a wonderful role in any city or town.  They offer a gathering place for diverse groups of people to mix, mingle and shop, and they create a great and wonderful sense of community.

There are farmers’ markets in every state.  Some, like the Pike Place Market in Seattle which was established in 1907, are in a permanent location and operate year round.  Others, like our Denton market are open three days a week…Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday…during the harvest season.

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Each market seems to have its own personality and offerings.  Most farmers’ markets exhibit any number of fruits and vegetables, and can offer farm fresh eggs, meats, seafood, fresh cut flowers, potted plants, herbs, breads, coffees, and homemade soaps.  Other products that can be found at markets are items made by local artists out of wood, pottery, fabric, leather and metal.  Last Saturday at the Denton market, there was an artist drawing caricatures.

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Mohagany bowl bought last Saturday at the Denton market

Farmers’ markets are great for people watching, but what I love most are the sights and the smells.  It’s so much fun to see the colors and shapes of all the fruits and vegetables and flowers…and the people!  And the smells of the market draw you in too.  There’s the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and newly baked bread mixed with the scents of flowers and herbs and fresh produce…along with the experience of being outside in the fresh air.

Some markets have live music by local musicians…which makes for a very enjoyable shopping experience.  Many farmers’ markets have gone high tech and have websites and Facebook pages and blogs where you can read about local vendors and their offerings before you shop the market.  Do you think “high tech farmers’ market” is an oxymoron?

I shopped the Kalamazoo, Michigan farmers’ market for 20 years.  Their market has a permanent U-shaped location with a cement floor and it has a roof and lighting which is great for rainy market days.  It’s open three days a week with the biggest market day being on Saturday.  There is a building in the center which houses restrooms rather than the port-o-versions, and live music is commonplace there on Saturdays.  Recently, it was announced that they were going to experiment with evening hours at this market.

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Items besides fresh produce bought at the Kalamazoo market

The following story is one I wrote several years ago about one of those Saturday morning visits to the Kalamazoo market and why it meant so much to me.  If you haven’t experienced one of these markets ever or recently, perhaps it’s time to see what you can harvest!


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Being at the farmers’ market early felt like being a member of a secret club.  I would imagine the farmers getting up before dawn to prepare their wares and pack their trucks for the drive to the market.  Then, in the dim early morning light, they would unpack their goods and set up their tables.  The offerings would change slightly with the season, but the faces behind the tables would remain the same. And each Saturday morning, there was the quiet, busy, hustle bustle of renewed friendships and trading.

 I had a friend who was my “market buddy.”  She and I liked to arrive early before the sleepy weekend crowds descended, and while there was still a good selection.  The market was U-shaped, and we liked to walk from one end to the other and back, to see everything and to check the differing prices and quality of things like quarts of strawberries. We would then make a mental list of our intended purchases. 

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My market basket

Although we loved choosing the many delicious fruits and vegetables for our families, we were both drawn to the flower vendors.  We delighted in learning the Latin names of the flowers, and we laughed as we tried to remember and pronounce them.  We loved seeing the many colors of the flowers, and we had endless discussions about which ones would fit best in each of our yards.  The flower vendors knew us by sight, and sometimes by name, and would often remember if we were looking for a specific kind of plant.  They would proudly pull it out from their “reserved” space under their tables and say, “Is this what you were looking for last week?”

The Saturday in June that has wedged itself so vividly in my memory started like any other.  As my friend and I were making our way through our first, window-shopping loop of the market that June day, we spied the huge trees at one of our favorite perennial vendors.  They were taller than we were, maybe six or seven feet, and they had the biggest, funniest looking leaves.  The dark green leaves were smooth and shiny and they looked like the ears of an elephant. We laughed at how they looked so tropical and out of place in a Michigan farmers’ market.  The vendor enjoyed our reaction and she answered our questioning glances by saying, “They are red banana trees.”  We wondered if they would really grow bananas, and we touched the leaves to see what such an unusual plant felt like.

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As I turned from the banana tree, invisible magnets drew my eyes to a sea of color on the ground in front of the vendor’s table.  I had been looking up at the tall banana trees, and had not seen the offerings below.  I froze in my spot and immediately felt like a little girl again as I stared at the colorful flats of zinnias.

Only seconds passed, but years fell away, as I gazed at the flower I knew so well from my childhood.  Without moving, I knew the almost negligible smell, and the feel of the zinnia, and I felt the aching pain of losing my grandmother all over again.

She and I had planted zinnias together every summer when I was a girl.  It was a tradition and a ritual that belonged to us alone.  We planted them from seed, usually in the warm mornings of early June.  They were a hardy flower and could withstand the hotter, dryer months of the Midwestern summers.

My grandmother liked them, because they made a nice cut flower that would last a long time in a Mason jar vase on the kitchen table.  I liked them because they came in so many colors and they had individual petals like daisies.  I didn’t like to waste a flower, but if one should inadvertently break off its stem, I would think of a boy I liked, and pull off the flower petals one by one as I played the old “he loves me, he loves me not” game.

Because zinnias would bloom into the fall, my grandmother and I would often plant them in her large vegetable garden.  She loved to mix a row of flowers like zinnias or sunflowers in with the many rows of vegetables.  She said it gave us something beautiful to look at while we worked in the garden.  It also gave her a ready supply of cut flowers to adorn her country kitchen.

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The other regular “zinnia spot” was in a huge bed out by the street, across the front of her yard.  My grandmother’s house sat halfway down a rural road, and she thought our zinnia garden would give all her neighbors something pleasant to see as they drove by.

I remembered how she taught me to make long furrows in the dirt and we would drop seeds together every few inches until we had reached the end.  Then, with her strong hands guiding my smaller ones, we would gently cover the seeds with the warm, moist soil until our task was complete.  After that, the waiting and watching would begin.  It wouldn’t be long before the strong, green shoots would push their way up through the dark, rich earth toward the sun.  We would celebrate each new growth, and eagerly await the first leaf and first blossom.

When the zinnia bed had reached its full potential, we would stand back and admire the rainbow of colors sitting atop their bed of green leaves.  Sometimes her neighbors would stop by and admire our beautiful garden with us.  At those times, she would always tell them how hard I had worked on it with her.  I remember how happy and proud I felt as a girl to be a part of our garden project that brought so much beauty and pleasure to us and to others.  I didn’t realize until later in life that we were planting more than flower seeds on those sunny summer mornings.

All of those memories flooded through my mind and heart as I stood next to my friend in the middle of the crowded farmers’ market that June morning.  And suddenly, I realized why it was such a special place to me.

Going to the farmers’ market was like taking a trip back in time to my childhood and being back on my grandmother’s farm with all of the familiar plants and flowers.  Going to the market helped me reconnect with the early loves and lessons from my childhood.  I turned toward the flower vender.  “I think I’d like a flat of those zinnias.”

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