If a Tomato Falls In the Woods….

by Stefani on 9-July-2007


… okay, well, not exactly the woods, but an overgrown, clearly unattended garden… if a tomato, or actually a rather lot of tomatos, are going to waste there, dying a slow and tragic death, with no one to mourn their demise, is it stealing to take them home with you?

There’s this school down the street from my house. It’s the one that my boys would attend, if we weren’t homeschooling. We like to ride our bikes there, after hours, to use their playground. Sometimes, for kicks, we even peek in the windows, just, you know, to see.

My boys LOVE the playground. Not because it has any fabulous equipment, but because it is covered in a DEEP ocean of sand. We take our digging tools and buckets, somtimes even gallons of water and make cities. We bury things, important things like a handful of “crystal” pebbles, and make elaborate maps so that we can find our treasures again. We think that pirates frequent the playground by moonlight because try as we might, we never find our treasures again.

I felt good about this playground. It’s close. It’s hardly ever inhabited. But it gives me the feel goods no longer, because now, it’s also the source of my most recent moral dilemma.

See, as part of the playground there are three small boxed in garden plots. One is full of sunflowers, tall, bushy and in serious need of some disciplinary action. One is full of some purplish skinny grainy looking things that are no doubt making a fine hiding place for who knows what kind of critters. The third is overgrown with a meandering mess of herbs and tomato vines. Of about 4 vines, only one has fruit, much of it on the surrounding ground, several with bird/bug holes.

Forbidden fruit.

For days, I thought about those tomatoes. I drove past the school and heard the serpent whisper, “pssssst. Free, fresh tomatoes. No one wants them. Come and take them. C’mon. Take and eat. Surely you will not die.”

I wrestled with myself for over it. Would it be stealing? Surely someone planted them, and who plants without coming back for the harvest? But then, who leaves a garden in this condition and expects to have any kind of harvest?

And then it hit me… we pay property taxes for a school that we do not use, save for the playground. There’s a loophole in there somewhere. I’m not sure just how, and I didn’t stop long enough to work out the details. I grabbed my bucket and ran before I could talk myself out of it.

Once there, I figured hey, if I’m going to take the apple (er, tomato), might as well go all out. I picked the green ones too, for frying. (Though I did leave a good bit too, just to appease my conscience a little).

Once home, I got a little giddy with my find. I even played Jane’s Addiction’s, “Been Caught Stealing” on my iPod while I bobbed around the kitchen, making the boys smoothies and snacking on those sun warmed little tomato babies. I was so drunk with my haul that I got reckless and popped a few of my treasures into the smoothies! Why not? Blackberry, blueberry, peach tomato smoothie. That sounds healthy, right? People drink tomato juice, right? Wahoo! Tomato goodness for everyone! Eat, drink, and be merry!

I danced and I sang, and I took a big ol’ gulp of… PUKE!

NEVER, I repeat NEVER put tomatoes in your smoothie. Do NOT try this at home.

Well, I had worked hard for those berries and peaches, and I wasn’t about to pour them down the drain without at least TRYING to feed it to my poor unsuspecting little innocents. I do have a heart though, so I tried to put a little lemonaide in it, you know, perk it up some and then I put it into cups with fancy straws, thinking that a distraction might help too.

“Yay! Smoothies for lunch!” they sang. I started to feel a little bad about not at least warning them.

Much straw sucking, and then…

“Mom, why does this taste like a tomato?” said James. I held my breath.

“Right James, like Mom would put a TOMATO in a smoothie!” said Luke, eyes rolling.

James looked at him, and back to me, then back to him, shrugged his shoulders and drank it down.

Is it lying if you neglect to tell the truth?

I really have no business being a mother.

Ellie July 9, 2007 at 6:50 am

You’re making me smile (laughing quietly, I have sleeping babes). I hate that dilema about the forbidden fruit or flowers hanging over garden fences… You did the right thing. And, about being a mother – yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing today…If they didn’t hate the smoothie then… you know kids wouldn’t drink it if they didn’t want to. Its only a tomato-untruth ~ thats okay once in a while.

Heather July 9, 2007 at 7:01 am

You make me laugh so hard I can’t type! Have a great one!

Molly July 9, 2007 at 7:18 am

I love going to school playgrounds with my kids. You did good by the environment picking those tomatoes. While growing vegetation absorbs CO2, rotting vegetation releases greenhouse gasses. We should all thank you!

Leigh-Ann July 9, 2007 at 9:30 am

i. LOVE. you!

Sarah July 9, 2007 at 9:31 am

Of course this advice is too little too late, but perhaps you could just ring the school secretary and see whose garden it is? I know your kids don’t go to school there, but often times schools have gardens that were planted by teachers who are no longer there and they can always use help keeping them tended.

Stefani July 9, 2007 at 9:49 am

Well, yes, Sarah, now that you mention it… I might just do that anyhow. It’s so sad to see it all languishing. I thought about calling someone, but had no idea who to call. Secretary. Got it. 🙂

Molly July 9, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Oh so sassy! Now I want a smoothie. Without tomatoes, of course.

PS: But paying property taxes for those schools is a good thing. 🙂 This, from an educator, who just got cut because of unpassed levies. Oy. Eat those dang tomatoes!

Molly July 9, 2007 at 3:38 pm

PS: School secretaries are the goddesses of the world. Ours was named DeAnn, and everyone should have a DeAnn. We LOVE DeAnn. She’s still named DeAnn, of course, but I’ll have a new DeAnn at my new school.

PPS: I need a nap. Teaching those little buggers in the heat is getting to me.

Stefani July 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Oh, I absolutely have no problem paying those property taxes. I was a teacher myself for a while and respect them immensely! I LOVE being able to teach my kids at home, but it’s not right or even and option for everyone, and for those kids, I want our neighborhood school to have all it needs and be the very best it can be. I also want their tomatoes 🙂

Sarah Jackson July 9, 2007 at 6:52 pm

That’s too funny. My kids would have spit it out and never trusted me again. I want to ask you some questions about home schooling. We’re considering doing that for a year when Jeff finishes school. Enjoy your tomatoes!

Sarah Taylor July 9, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I love this! Absolutely love it. You had me chuckling the whole way through. They look beautiful so enjoy your tomatoes. School is out, who will mind?

leslie July 9, 2007 at 10:10 pm

it’s no big deal to take a few, especially since they were left unattended… no need to waste ’em! thanks for the advice on adding tomatoes to the smoothies, thats something i would do too! xoxo

leslie July 9, 2007 at 10:11 pm

you’re soooo funny by the way! 🙂

Jude July 12, 2007 at 7:04 am

Are you kidding – you sound like a great mother! I’m sitting here thinking how committed to your kids you are – home schooling – yowza! And – as a teacher I would be happy for you to take the tomatoes during the break times rather than some unsupervised kid hurl them around the school. Thanks for the smile!

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