Meme grew a tea garden. With a huge stash of powdery 10-10-10 fertilizer and a hoe she worked like a pastry blender, she planted her sacred herbs near her award-winning blue potatoes and the two rows of marijuana planted atop heaps of chicken droppings along the side of a hen house.
Dad claims the little tea garden saved her from a terrible bout of summer flu. Almost everyone catches this mysterious illness, no matter what time of the year. It is a sudden sickness that hits one hard, out-of-the-blue, and suddenly. “I feel like hell, Barry. I can hardly move,” Meme cried, her red hair matted along the side of her Irish face like the claws of a crow grabbing an ear of corn. “Go outside to my tea garden and clip two pieces from each of the plants and bring them inside. None of your pot, though.”
“We boiled all the little stems—the catnip, mint and everything else she had planted out there. There must have been a dozen or so plants,” Dad explained. “She was up and walking around twenty minutes later. I was scared when I found her insider her trailer looking so sick.”
Meme entered her blue potatoes in the Huntingdon County Fair and always won the blue ribbon, but the tea was for her own consumption. At the time, very few farmers in Huntingdon ever saw blue potatoes and already Lipton had destroyed nearly all tea gardens in Appalachia. She sent away for the potato seed from a garden catalog that also sold her an egg that she incubated in a little plastic contraption with a light bulb that came from the same manufacturer and distributor of the eggs. We watched the chick hatch and grow into a short-tailed hen that Meme called ‘Sally’. Sally laid eggs that were not brown, but rather slightly green on the shell, just as was advertised.
Meme’s cider was the better than her tea, I bet. I don’t remember the tea garden that Dad spoke of this morning nor the rows of marijuana that dad used to make many friends, but I remember making cider with my grandmother, the most beautiful red-head this side of Dublin. There was an entire orchard surrounding her trailer. My grandfather planted it. We used a juicer that required paper filters that Meme sent away for. Jug after jug was filled and every now and then I took another sip in a little glass with yellow flowers painted on it.
Meme was not impressed with marijuana, according to Dad: “I asked her if she wanted to smoke some one summer night. She took a few puffs and said, ‘I don’t feel a damned thing.’ A few minutes later she ate half a cold chicken.”