It always smelled like dill. Not dill pickles – not yet – but dill, the fresh dill weed that grew in patches along the side of the gravel drive to my grandparent’s house, that led to the garden at the top of the hill. 

Grandpa would put on his hat, a wide-brimmed straw saucer, and pick up the big silver bucket from the garage, and we’d go walking.

No, I’d go running, tumbling and tripping over my own bare feet, legs itchy from the sharp sweet grass and the biting flies buzzing low to the ground, slow in the summer heat. And Grandpa would walk, hips lilting back and forth, back and forth. 

Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw him travel faster than a walk. But he never needed to. He was sturdy, slow, stable, steady. Always on time, always there, wherever “there” needed to be. 

So he walked and I ran, but still somehow he’d always get to the garden before I did. He’d show me which were the cucumbers, when the maize was ready, how to pick the zucchinis that were just the right size. He’d tell me not to dig up ALL the potatoes now, we need to save some for tomorrow, and the day after that, too. 

My hands would smell like dirt, small fingernails full of earth as I plucked June beetles from beet leaves in the shade of his shadow, that moved slowly as he worked, bent over, arched into the perfect shape of a Grandpa in a garden. The sun would paint the backs of his ears pink, despite the best efforts of his hat. Our ears are the same, hanging heavy from the sides of our heads like ripe corn cobs, collecting sunshine. 

And just before the sun got too hot to bear, Grandpa’s back would straighten, and back down the hill the two of us would go, his bucket full of green beans, my cheeks full of tomatoes, our noses full of wild, sour dill. 

As hard as I try, I can’t remember what dill looks like. But I’d know it if I smelled it.


Richmond, VA

Rachel RinggoldComment