Grandma’s garden was always bright and fresh. From early spring through late fall there was always something blooming. And in the winter the birds kept it alive. It was an informal and easy garden—a bit of this here and a bit of that there. Nothing was ever untouchable, with the possible exception of the beehives.
Whenever we were lucky enough to sleep overnight at Grandma’s house, we tried to wake up early to be with her in the garden. She was always out long before breakfast—watering, weeding, and doing other necessary tasks. We would scurry outside, sometimes with the rag curlers, which Grandma had tied there the night before, still in our hair. We could snap the heads off the spent roses, play in the water, and pick a few fresh flowers to hold and to smell. If we had our shoes on, we could dance on the earwigs Grandma shook out of the rag she placed in the crook of the cherry tree every night. If it was raspberry season, we picked a panful to eat with cream for breakfast.
One of my favorite treats came from the trumpet vine on the front porch. Grandma would pick the blossoms, letting us taste the sweet nectar at the base. It was almost as good as the honey fresh from the backyard hives. I could see exactly why the hummingbirds were so fond of those flowers.
The “lilac house” was the most fragrant playhouse in the world. It was an open area in the middle of the lilac bushes that we could divide into rooms. The little orange and black ice-cream-parlor chairs we dragged in didn’t exactly fit the green and lavender decor, but they made it homey. When we tired of playing house, we picked some of the delicious blossoms and took them to Grandma. She helped us make lilac pictures, poking holes in cardboard, and putting a single flower in each hole.
Hollyhock dolls made of toothpicks, blossoms, and buds danced many a waltz on the lawn swing. They were so gay in pink, red, and white, with their full skirts and wide-brimmed hats.
A bright red geranium in a pot on the front porch always welcomed us to Grandma’s house for our Sunday evening visit. We knew our “Toy Grandma,” as we so fondly called her, had toys, fun, and games waiting inside. But best of all, we could have “bread from the oven!”
The little spring crocuses remind me of the Easter eggs she used to paint. The beautiful hand-painted faces and elegant bonnets fashioned by Grandma were always the hit of the day. They would finally spoil in our Easter baskets; they were much too elegant to eat.
Grandma was very much like many of the flowers in her garden. I think of her beautiful roses: the Queen Elizabeth—always a lady; the Tropicana—warm and friendly; the Peace Rose—delicate and quiet.
Her sense of humor and quick wit remind me of her daffodils, jauntily nodding in the spring. No matter how cold the spring weather, or snowy the day, they nodded gaily. In her nineties, and losing her hearing, Grandma said one day, “Sometimes I think the Lord must have called me and I just couldn’t hear him.” As a friend died at the age of ninety-three, Grandma said, “Good for her! That’s what she ought to do at that age.”
She would sit and watch her great-grandchildren play with the walker she used for support in walking around her home. “I know they think there is something more interesting to do with that,” she would say. One of them, performing a gymnastic feat requiring great balance and agility on the walker, asked Grandma, “Can you do this?” Without a moment’s hesitation she replied, “I could if I had my gymsuit on.”
On her ninety-ninth birthday she bent down to pick up a little toy left on the floor by one of her great-grandchildren. I joked, “Grandma, you’re too old to bend down to pick that up.” “No,” she replied, “I’m too old to trip over it!”
Finally, I think of the sweet peas clinging to the side of the garage. She was certainly as tenacious as they, living with such beauty and strength for ninety-nine lovely years.