Earth Matters: Grandparents, parents, wife have impact on lifestyle

Have you ever wondered how different you’d have turned out without the influence or support of the important people in your life?

Like many things in our lives, the impact of our family on our environmental attitudes and interest in nature is usually the first one we experience.

While neither my mother nor my two grandmothers were hardcore outdoor, nature girls, they all loved to travel in their younger days, especially by train. Their rail treks took them far and wide — to the beach, the Big Apple and even Maine. My mother’s greatest adventure was a cross-country trip to San Fran­cisco near the end of World War II. Among other things, she married my father on that trip.

Even though my mother didn’t wander as much as she grew older, she still travelled many miles by map. One of her most enjoyable trips by map was my cross-country bike trip following my final year of college in 1978. When I got home, I found nine road maps (Oregon to Pennsylvania) taped one on top of the next on the dining room wall. My path was traced in a yellow highlighter and each day’s stop was marked with the date. She wouldn’t have set foot in the places I slept on that trip, but she was with me just the same.

My father followed my trip with interest, as well, and ultimately bicycled across the country and up the East Coast after he retired. Though this was a reversal of roles (Dad was inspired by the son rather than son by the father), his earlier journeys were notable unto themselves. The U.S. Navy had taken him half-way around the world during the war and he, too, loved to peacefully experience every new place he could.

While my parents, especially, inspired my siblings and me to visit faraway places, my grandfathers helped nurture an interest in growing things. Both were enthusiastic gardeners, particularly in the days when many folks grew their own. My sisters and I still reminisce about picking raspberries on the hill behind Pappy Frederick’s massive vegetable garden. I can also vividly picture my Pappy Weakland hoeing his tomato plants and picking pears from the tree in his yard.

And the garden is where my dear wife, Kathy, comes into the story. Even before we were engaged, she bought into the whole “back-to-the-land” thing, helping in the garden and supplying every sort of support she could for the crazed bicyclist she had fallen in love with.

Her devotion (or insanity) might be best exemplified by the infamous Brussels Sprout Affair. Faced with a bumper crop of Brussels sprouts in the mid-’80s, a wintry forecast forced us to harvest our crop one cold, late autumn night. When we realized we could never pick each individual sprout, we grabbed every tarp and blanket we could find, yanked them out of the ground and drug them back to my parents garage.

She’s been freezing veggies, diligently recycling, conserving energy and raising two environmentally-aware sons ever since. I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of a Happy Environmental Mother’s Day wish.

John Frederick ( writes about environmental topics for the Mirror.