Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Potato Story

Hello Friends, as promised, The Potato Story.

I grew up in what is now known as South Los Angeles, South Central or Watts depending on which channel is reporting the news. The area is now primarily known for being dangerous, a place that you have to be extra aware of your surroundings but when I was a child that area was a regular, integrated, working class neighborhood. Children could and did go outside to play. We'd skate, bike, play at each other's homes, and the way you'd know it was time to go home was that it was either dark or, your mom would come outside and yell for you.

I was about 8 years old when my mother told me that potatoes could grow from a single potato and I was beyond amazed. I liked potatoes and was curious how this miracle would occur. One day my mother gave me a potato, we inserted two toothpicks and submerged the bottom of the spud in a glass of water.

Then we waited. After a long time (actually about 7-10 days) there were roots in the water and my mom said I could take the potato outside and plant it in the ground. We didn't have a garden in the back yard but there was a large cement area which was probably a mini parking lot. The cement area was bordered on one side by hibiscus plants, on another side there was a chain link fence covered with morning glories, four small garages and a large dirt mountain by the garages. The dirt mountain is where I planted my potato and I couldn't wait to see what would happen.

Then I waited. I would race home after school, change out of my green plaid jumper and watch Dark Shadows, after that I went out to the dirt mountain. I would run out to the mound
and examine the location where the potato was buried. Actually, I would just stand over the area and stare. I would stare and wonder how I would know when the potato was ready. Had it been long enough? No, not yet. Then, I'd get on all fours, get my face very close to the ground and look for something, anything that looked different. Nothing. Disappointed, I'd go back into the house for the evening.

This process went on forever with very little variation. After an eternity in child time (real time about 3-4 weeks) I could stand it no longer. Surely enough time had passed. Think about how children process the passage of time; you know, "are we there yet?"

I had no idea how long the potato should remain planted and I don't remember asking my mother how long it would be. All I knew for certain, with the wisdom of my 8 year-old mind, was that it had been a really long time and I had to know if there were any potatoes!

So I dug it up. Once the first little handful of dirt was tossed to the side I couldn't stop. I kept digging with my little toy shovel and my hands until I'd unearthed the potato, roots and all and examined it. I looked at it and to my surprise there were little, Barbie-doll size potatoes at the ends of some of the roots. I took one off of the roots and bit into it, it tasted like a potato. It was a real, honest-to-goodness potato!

I looked at the potato in my hands, and all the roots with the little potatoes on them and a vague sense of disappointment descended on me. I thought, with the true wisdom of my 8 year-old mind: "I bet if I'd left it in longer, that would have been better".

The metaphor for my life was revealed to me at an early age and to be honest, I wish that I could say I've learned from it. My lack of patience, my inability to leave the potato in the ground long enough has been one of the major challenges of my life.

I know that in a lot of ways I'm not that girl anymore...

...but in some ways I still am.