Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Warmth of Dill

This post was suppose to be about my herb garden, but it took another path as I gathered my thoughts and looked at my list of herbs in my writers notebook.  I decided to start with dill because it was my favorite, and before I knew it, I realized dill meant more to me than all the others. 

I have now grown 10 herbs but started with one, and that was dill.  Right now, dill can grow anywhere it wants to in my gardens.  It can grow in the herb garden, of course, but also in the flower garden, through the vegetable garden, along the 4 o'clocks, or next to the pine.  I wouldn't care if some seeds flew to my deck into my pretty flower pots.  I love everything about dill--the weed, the seed, the taste, the smell, and most importantly, the memories. 

One can use the weed (the airy, feathery foliage) and yellow flowers that first appear on the plant in salads, breads, lamb, salmon, peas, potatoes, or with cucumbers and sour cream.  Seeds that come at the end of the plant's life can be used to make pickles or breads.  Anyway you use it, the taste is divine and the smell of dill after a rain or from the morning or evening dew, permeates my soul. 

Where did this love of dill originate?  --Baba.

Baba, born Mary, was my mother's mom who came from Russia and arrived on Ellis Island in 1905.  She was 67 when I was born and died when I was 24 in 1971, so I only knew her as an aged grandparent who was still gentle, warm, loving, and always had a smile for us grandchildren.  I regret I never took the time to appreciate who she was, but I still loved and respected her.  She spoke in broken English, much of her conversation in Russian.  She never learned to read and wrote her name only to become a citizen of the United States in 1953.   

As a child, I visited her at the apartment building she owned on Virginia Street in Gary, Indiana.  It was behind the small grocery story she ran with my grandfather.  It was mainly a butcher shop.  She also grew scads of African violets on her large southern windowsill in her apartment and gave me my first African violet to raise.  It was still winter, and I cradled that baby plant all the way home, hoping it wouldn't die in the cold.  I don't remember her giving me anything else during my childhood, but, obviously, she gave me enough warmth to keep her in my thoughts. My plant or anyone else's African violet didn't do as well as Baba's.  She had a knack for violets.  I tried many times when I was first married to grow them but to no avail.  Baba had the touch for violets and grandchildren.  She also had the touch for cooking. 

Baba was able to have a small garden in the back of her bottom apartment, surrounded by a tall fence.  All I can remember of that garden were her dill plants and the odor that encircled the small garden patch.  As I grew older and to this day, dill still reminds me of  Baba. 

How can a smell draw you so close to a person you haven't seen for 41 years?  It takes a special person like Baba. 

To this day, I honor her memory and love that smell of my youth and the life of my grandmother who made it so special.

Thanks, Baba, for the "good" memories of my childhood.



  1. Oh Tam, what a beautiful story! I have never grown dill and had no idea that the odor permeated the air. I love how you thought you were writing about your herbs only to find the deep connection you had to one herb.

  2. What a good story about how memories surface with unexpected prompts. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I am a big fan of dill myself. Although, my love of dill doesn't carry the sweet memories yours does.

    The story of Baba and the African violet is begging to become a picture book. It has a Patricia Polacco quality to it: vivid and comforting and connected.

  4. Tam, first of all, thank you for your comment & the both tragic but then happy story of your grandson's illness. My husband has lived a good life, & although he is still young (just 69), he has had a good life. When little ones are ill, it is heartbreaking, so I understand your struggle to write.
    I love hearing today's post about your Baba. I have so many happy memories of my grandparents & taste of certain things bring some of them back, like your dill. I love these words: " I love everything about dill--the weed, the seed, the taste, the smell, and most importantly, the memories." So real to me. How much the brain brings us.

  5. Tam, I loved this post from the heart about one small thing...a dill plant. My grandma made lots of pickles in Michigan living near pickle fields. She awlays had a long row of it planted in her garden. I can remember running down the row in bare feet with my hands out touching the dill plants. Then grandma would say I smelled like baby pickles. She would pick it and have a piece in her flower arrangments on the kitchen table. Thanks for making me remember... next spring I think I will plant some dill, will you share some seeds?