Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Very Own Grandpa Green

Have you ever connected so much with a book that it takes your breath away? For me, reading Grandpa Green by Lane Smith to my daughter the other night was like getting a warm hug. I had read glowing reviews of the book, and I knew that I would like the book. However, I had no idea the book would bring "happy tears" (as my daughter would say) to my eyes.  The book beautifully tells  the story of one man as his great-grandson follows him through the gardens of his life. And with each page, we see the grandfather age and become more forgetful, as the great-grandson carefully picks up the gardening tools that were left behind. Grandpa Green may grow forgetful, but he has left behind a lifetime of memories through his topiary trees.

After the first time I read it, my daughter looked at me and asked if it reminded me of my Poppop. I nodded, and she asked if we could read it again. We read it a second time, noticing so much more in each of the illustrations. And by the third time I read it, my daughter was able to point out how the little boy pick items the grandfather left behind.

After I tucked her into bed, I ran downstairs to share the book with my husband. His first response after I read it to him was to ask if the book had been written about my grandfather. You see, last summer I lost my very own Grandpa Green and reading this story felt like opening a door into his life.
My grandfather raising quail.
He was born a long time ago and raised on a farm. He went off to Rutgers to study agriculture, but had to receive his diploma in the mail because he was sent off to fight in World War 2.  He got married, had a family, and lived a long full life. However, that barely scratches the surface of who he was and how he shaped the future generations of our family.

My grandparents in their Christmas Tree Farm
I grew up living next door to my grandparents and their Christmas tree farm. He may not have shaped topiary trees, but he did spend countless hours trimming and shaping the Christmas trees. While he was out in the fields trimming the trees, he would take time to show us the difference between the needles, how some were flat and some shaped like squares. He would quiz us on the different types of evergreens. And sometimes, he would send us over to his garden to pick the tomato bugs off his delicious Jersey tomatoes. I could write pages about the impact he had on my life and the lives of everyone in our family, but the words just wouldn't do him justice.
My grandfather showing off the trees at Wood's Blue Ribbon Farm

The reason the words wouldn't do him justice is because the memory of him lives in something bigger than any words can express. The memory of my grandfather lives in the "Victory Garden" I first planted with my oldest daughter in 2009 and the stories I share with her about why the term Victory Garden is important.
My oldest daughter when she was just 2 1/2, enjoying her first garden.
...and in the heirloom Rutgers tomato seeds we plant and carefully save each year.
...and in the stories about selling Christmas trees we share around the holidays.
...and in the belief that all trees look beautiful when trimmed just right.
...and in the fact that my younger brother went on to study horticulture in college, getting a his Master's degree from Texas A&M, extending the memory of my grandfather through my his own  life's work.
...and in the songs that I can still hear my grandfather singing because he loved to sing silly songs.

Really, I could go on forever listing the memories he planted and grew in each one of his children and grandchildren and the great-grandchildren that had the privilege to meet him. But, I know that for as long as I will live, when Christmas time comes, cutting down a perfectly trimmed evergreen and bringing it into my home will bring back the memories of growing up next door to my grandfather's Christmas tree farm and part of him will be with us once again.

I have already sent my brother a copy of Grandpa Green, and I know that this is one picture book that will be read over and over again in our family.

If you would like to learn more about the book, check out the publisher's website or check out this book trailer:
To learn more about the amazing illustrator and children's book writer Lane Smith, check out his website. He has so many wonderful books from which to choose.


I would love to hear your thoughts.

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