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Essays by Karen Anderson: Asparagus

Illustration by Kacie Brown

In late spring, my mother would send me into the field behind our house to pick asparagus. We lived in a tiny bungalow, one of hundreds built in a hurry after World War II. Our back yard was once farmland and asparagus grew wild there now. “Take only the tall stalks,” my mother said. “Let the little ones grow a while.”

My father had come home from the war a different person. He’d spent three years on an air craft carrier in the South Pacific and saw terrible things he didn’t talk about. My parents thought that if he just got home safely, everything would be fine. It wasn’t fine but nobody knew what to do. So he went back to work and they bought a house and had another baby.

I loved picking asparagus, looking for the green stalks in the thick grass, and I went out every day after school. Sometimes my younger brother went with me and I told him which kind to pick. “We have to let the little ones grow,” I said.

My mother also taught me how to fix asparagus. “Start at the tip,” she said, “and cut in small pieces. Stop when it gets hard.”

I always remembered her advice, to “stop when it gets hard.”

As if we could.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.