SUNNYSIDE – When his granddaughter Jayla brought over a cabbage plant from class right before school was out for the summer, Nicolas realized they had a garden project to undertake and locating the right spot meant grandpa would be taking care of the seedling.
That rich and fertile spot in the yard was where he had grown watermelons last year. The partially shaded area was balanced with a healthy dose of sunshine. Nicolas said he had never grown a head of cabbage before and wasn’t sure of what to expect.
Little did he know, in about two and one-half months, the hearty vegetable required both hands when it was harvested from the bountiful 9th Street backyard where he and his wife Beatrice have lived for 35 of their 46 years of marriage.
According to grandma, the enthused 76-year-old cultivator and his Washington Elementary third grade helper kept a watchful eye out on the leafy green vegetable over the summer while Jayla helped with the watering duties at times.
As the couple retold the story from the comfortable porch in the backyard of how the oversized cabbage came to be, the message being communicated was becoming more clear - like the easygoing smiles on their faces and the joyous laughter shared.
The underlying meaning wasn’t about the bulk of the vegetable, it was about the home-grown environment at grandma and grandpa’s house which has taken root and grown steadily in Jayla’s upbringing.
For Jayla and her grandpa, who beamed proudly as he described their time spent together outdoors taking care of all the plants, from flowers and strawberries to fruit trees while sharing in genuine conversation and heartfelt laughter about anything which came to mind, above and beyond gardening topics.
Sunday, Sept. 8, marked “National Grandparents’ Day” and at the Diaz’ house that expression of love was embedded in the landscape with each backyard activity and passed on, more than three decades ago.
The retired couple have also raised two grown children, Melisa and Nick who are familiar with their dad’s unyielding early morning and evening watering and gardening routine.
The former WA Migrant employee and Paterson truck driver who transported potatoes for 14 years is used to being on the move.
“He always has something to do outside. After he works out there in the morning, he comes inside and takes a little nap. And watches a little bit of T.V. Don’t think he’s working out there 24 hours a day,” she jokingly laughed. “In the evening, he’s out here in the backyard again.”
After Nicolas had carried in the massive cabbage and sat it on the kitchen counter, Beatrice initially thought about making coleslaw and sharing it with the rest of the family. She later decided to use the vegetable in a family-size pot of hearty beef stew.
“Our family always calls on him to come over and help plant a tree or anything because he has a green thumb,” Beatrice candidly described.