By Beryl Gorbman
Inspired by Ileana Acevedo
Andy was sitting under a tree in his yard. He was sad because last week his grandmother Nina had died. He had heard her make some strange noises and then she didn’t breathe any more. And then his mother had started crying, so he knew something very bad had happened.
When he came out of his room the next morning, Grandma Nina was gone. Where her bed had been, there was a table with flowers and the room smelled nice and fresh.
Today was Tuesday. His grandmother always made chocolate chip cookies on Tuesdays. They kept them in a jar on the kitchen counter and they were gone by Friday, so she made pies for the weekend.
No one had made cookies today. His mom was still too sad to come out of her room. No one would ever again make chocolate chip cookies for him on Tuesdays. This was a sad day. He decided to sit outside under the trees until it got dark.
He thought about the raspberry jam his grandmother wouldn’t make with the berries from her own garden. He thought of the stories she wouldn’t tell him any more. He cried a little.
Andy liked the wind in his hair and the way it felt cold against the tears on his cheeks. A lot of leaves were falling and that was sad too. They had turned brown and yellow and they had gotten wrinkled and weak, just like his grandmother had. And when the wind came at them, they fell off the trees.
Andy touched a leaf that was on the ground next to him. Mostly, it was just a bunch of tiny lines that used to hold the leaf together. It was hard to believe such a wrinkled old dead thing was once young and green and strong.
As he touched the dead leaf, it turned to powder in his hands, and blended with the earth. It’s gone, he thought. Just like Grandma Nina. It has disappeared. It is gone forever.
Andy looked across the lawn at Grandma Nina’s garden. It was full of weeds and you almost couldn’t tell it was a garden any more. That made him even sadder.
Pretty soon he got up and walked over to the garden. He saw a big ugly dandelion trying to take over the carrots, so he pulled it out. It came out of the earth easily and seemed to start fading immediately. And the carrot plant seemed to say thank you. So he pulled another weed and another, until pretty soon there was a clean patch of Grandma Nina’s garden. There were pumpkins hidden under there! And there was still mint left. Andy picked some mint for his mom’s tea.
He looked at all the dead leaves in the garden. He was going to pick them up and throw them out until he remembered that Grandma Nina always left them there. She said that after a while, they turned into good dirt, and that’s why her garden gave them such delicious fruit and vegetables. They didn’t disappear after all.
As Andy weeded the beds and talked to the plants, he thought his grandmother would be very happy if she could see him. He was doing her work. If he did this every day, Grandma Nina’s garden would never go away and his family could still have raspberries, carrots and everything else she grew there.
And he thanked the dead leaves for their help in making the soil dark and healthy.
He was only seven, but suddenly he understood a big idea, something that had never occurred to him.
Nothing ever really dies. Things change, but they are not gone.
The leaf, though it had died, would become soil. A dead leaf was as beautiful as a green one.
And the garden would live too, because of him and his love for his grandmother. He still loved her, even though he couldn’t touch her. His love for her had not changed, so she was here too.
He had to sit down again, to think about this idea. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom about it.
As he sat there, his hands brown with soil, holding a bouquet of mint and carrots, Andy smelled the unmistakable aroma of chocolate chip cookies.