Gardening and Memory


The garden as family member, visible toward the right back. Photos marking family events and visits always took place in the yard. My grandfather’s hunting dog is visible behind the trellis. 1969.

Among the Bowmans, the garden is part of the family. Any Sunday dinner was ended with “a walk to the garden,” a trip to check on the vegetables’ progress. I laughingly continued this tradition in my 450 sq. foot Manhattan apartment, my mother and I squeezing past my bed to get the the window sill where I keep pots of flowers, herbs, miniature cucumbers (a tasty variety known as Patio Pickle), and a strawberry.

At my grandparents’ house, this meant a huge patch of corn, rhubarb, asparagus, pole lima beans, green beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, yellow squash, raspberries, and other items since forgotten. Gardening was a summer activity; I never remember my family planting (or eating) winter squash, kale, or other greens (see my post on Winter Gardening here). My grandfather kept the vegetable garden and my grandmother chose showy flowers for beds near the house – the garden mirrored their personalities. Irises and Portulacas. He always wore a white t-shirt, khaki pants, and a feed cap when working around the house and yard. The garden was surrounded on 3 sides by woods, set back from Chapel Road outside Havre de Grace. Tinkling aluminum pie tins futilely attempted to scare the deer. Sometimes shelling from nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground would break the silence. Evenings were spent with aged baskets of beans to snap and limas to shell. I didn’t care much for the task or its yield.

Evans Family House, Webster, outside of Havre de Grace MD. c. 1920.

Evans Family House, Webster, outside of Havre de Grace MD. c. 1920.

Roses were transplanted from garden to garden, a maintenance of heritage. My grandfather moved a pink rose from his cousin’s house, once home to my 3rd great grandparents, in Webster. My mother has since transplanted it to Carroll County.


About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.