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Connections | Magazine

Babe: The zucchini that stole our hearts

A gardener’s family grows unusually fond of a vegetable.

The author’s daughter with Babe the Zucchini.From Jeanne Timm

My love of gardening began with my father. He was happiest when out in the yard with his many tools, getting down and dirty with nature. His flowers and vegetables were the best in the neighborhood. I watched and learned from him throughout the years and marveled at his love of gardening and his relationship with the earth and sun. My flower gardens will never rival his, but the veggies in my garden bind us forever.

I start seedlings for broccoli, leafy lettuce, basil, and green pole beans in March, and by May the south-facing kitchen window is full of sprouts awaiting planting time. When the hopeful warmth of June approaches, I joyously plant and patiently await my harvest.

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One year there was a little zucchini that eluded me. It lay underneath another zucchini plant for the entire season, growing and growing. And then, when it was time to prepare the earth for the next growing season, there it was. Dark green and gorgeous, unbelievably huge — regal if you use your imagination. Amazing that I never noticed that beauty, the biggest zucchini I had ever laid eyes upon. It was the size of a baseball bat. I named it Babe after the Great Bambino.

My great-aunt Rose also loved gardening, and we compared our zucchinis each year for family bragging rights. Like always, that summer we took pictures and sent them to each other, sizing up the differences of our zucchinis. The whole family got involved in the game. After seeing Babe, Aunt Rose had no choice but to concede.

I kept Babe in the basement in a wicker basket thinking he’d be safe there. But then one afternoon, I panicked — Babe was missing! Frantically, I searched. Where could he be?

He didn’t just walk out of the house! While I was doing the dishes and folding laundry, I couldn’t stop thinking about Babe’s disappearance. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to him. But when I walked into the bedroom to put the folded clothes away, there was Babe in my bed, on the pillow, tucked under the comforter.

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Nothing was said that day, but somehow that night Babe turned up on my husband’s work bench in the cellar with a pair of safety glasses on, work gloves and tenpenny nails by his side. The next morning, I found him in a red-checkered apron in the high chair in the kitchen, by the picture window. The day after, he was buckled into the front seat of my car, wearing mink earmuffs.

Let the games begin, I thought, or at least continue. It was nearing December when I had an idea as I rummaged through all the boxes of Christmas decorations, searching for the red Santa hat. Bingo! It was the perfect size for Babe. I wrapped a scarf around him and placed him under the Christmas tree next to a decorated box. By then he’d acquired a face with a mustache.

Babe disappeared one more time that week. My husband and I found him that night in our daughter’s bed, tucked in next to her and snuggled alongside her favorite teddy bear.

Babe was part of our lives for about six months before he met his demise. I couldn’t stand the thought of cooking him — he’d become part of our family. He had also aged a bit.

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We held a private family service right next to the garden. Aunt Rose attended. We returned Babe to the earth just before the first snow fall of the season. I miss him! Maybe we’ll see him again this summer.

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Jeanne Timm lives and gardens in Milford. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Submit your 650-word essay on a relationship to connections@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.