Monday, June 25, 2012

A Summer Rerun--Daddy and The Lady Banks Rose

 We moved back to Chesterfield County in 1989 after Mac retired from the Navy. I had told him that since I had followed him all over the world for so many years, it was time for him to follow me, and that I was going to Chesterfield.  Like any sensible man, he followed. My parents were happy that we were settling nearby and that they would get to be closer to their grandsons.
     Mama, who was a master gardener in all but degree, was eager to share her plant knowledge with Mac and me. She took us all over their massive yard pointing out the beds of roses, the huge scattering of daffodils in the woods and in particular the Lady Banks Rose that was growing up the side of the garage. She had planted it as a stripling about 12 inches high and had pampered it and babied it for ten years. Now in January, she was anxious to show us how she had placed brackets on the garage to secure it to so that it was 15 or so feet up and then swagging down. She told us the blooms this year would be spectacular and it would occur around Easter. I shared in her excitement and everytime I went to visit was greeted by the site of the bare limbed Lady Banks. I would go over and examine it for signs of first leaf.
     Okay, now Daddy had a pair of loppers that he used to trim the trees to keep their branches from assaulting him when he was riding the mower or driving the car down the drive. He loved those loppers. They weren't much to look at as loppers go, but they were kept lovingly oiled and ready for action on a hook on the wall inside the garage.   Weekends starting in early spring were dedicated to neatening up flower beds, opening garden plots out back for the veggies that Mama grew with pride and aplomb and general yard work and weeding was carried out. Our younger son Michael enjoyed spending weekends at his "sweet little Grandma's". He didn't mind helping out there, though I couldn't get him to turn his hand in the yard at home. I would go to pick him up and take the chance to admire the Lady Banks and ooh and ahh over the new leaves it was putting on. It really was going to be glorious this year, I could tell. So one warm Saturday morning, I took Michael to spend the day at Grandma's. Daddy was out and about, no suit and tie but dressed in his yard work gear, a well worn pair of khaki shorts an old plaid shirt and faded green hat on his head. Oh, and loppers in hand. He had trimmed the magnolia tree limbs and was clearing the circle of dead branches and weeds that Mama and the kids had pulled. He waved at me as I dropped Michael off. I glanced at the beauty of the Lady Banks and dreamed of having one like it one day.
     So it's about 4:30 that afternoon when the phone rings. On the other end, Michael is breathless with something akin to fear. "Mom, you've got to come here quick, Grandma is going to kill Grandpa!"
     Okay, now having heard Mama threaten to kill Daddy at least 100 times a year for most of my life, I'm not getting so excited over this piece of news. Stifling a yawn, I ask him casually "so, what did Grandpa do this time?" A tremble was in his voice, he couldn't hide it. "He lopped off Grandma's Lady Banks." I sat straight up, rigid with anger of my own.
      "Go tell Grandma to hold on I'm on my way."
      "So you're gonna stop her?" he wanted to know.
      "Oh no, I'm going to help her!" I told him, a deadly calm in my voice. I heard him yelling "run Grandpa run!"
     Okay, so we didn't kill him. But Mama took his loppers away. He was not allowed to use them without strict supervision and only when Mama saw the need of them. Funny, but she didn't feel the need of their use for many years after that...
     oh and ps:
yes, I do have a Lady Banks Rose, she is 10 feet high and no one but no goes near her with anything sharper than a camera lens.

Mama and Daddy circa 1962

Sunday, June 17, 2012

a summer rerun...Build it and they will come

Chesterfield is such an amazing little town, the County Seat, only one street long with shops on either side, a bank at the corner by the Courthouse, the Western Auto Appliance Store directly across from the brick edifice we call the Courthouse...the old Courthouse, which is at the other end of the street actually looks like what it is. It has charm and character and stories to tell...but a couple of decades ago someone got it into their heads that building a new Courthouse and making it look like some large brick box with a flat roof might make Chesterfield seem an up and coming thriving town. So we have this nondescript brick building we call the courthouse, across the street is the Western Auto and next to the Western Auto a small grassy area that held...nothing. So the Town Council agreed to erect a lovely little Gazebo there, a place where perhaps lunches could be taken, or just a place to sit and rest and talk with friends. It was a wonderful concept. I tell you this to paint a picture for you....lets begin with my very own yard...

I love my yard, or as it was called in England, my garden. We have so much planted, areas laid out with broad swathes of color and texture that I think we can call the whole affair a garden and easily get by with it. I call our place Orchard Cottage, which is what our home in England was named, because of all the fruit trees and bushes that surround us here as it did there. Our place is not large, but cozy and very comfortable for the two of us and room for guests when they arrive. The front porch is large and shaded with hanging pots of broad leaf moss roses (Portulaca) petunias of every hue, mostly double and rose bushes all around. There's a Mandavillia vine curling it's way over the porch rail and a volunteer cantaloupe twining it's way alongside. There are cats sleeping on the porch rail, escaping the heat of the day, their sweet faces turned toward the front door in hopes someone will come out and sit with them. Looking over to the front drive the other day, Mac allowed as how a Gazebo would look fine up there, inviting us within it's cool depths on the way back from the mailbox. I had to laugh, he who is always accusing me of "having visions", was apparently having a few visions of his own. I told him I didn't think I wanted a Gazebo, though the idea was nice. He looked at me for a second, reached out and touched my face and smiled and said "Chesterfield's Gazebo get you spooked?" and suddenly laughed one of those laughs that only a man can manage, head thrown back, bellows of sound erupting like silly thunder. I nodded, oh yes...Chesterfield's Gazebo....

Now, Chesterfield is a small town, as I have said. But we have more than our share of, for lack of a more politically correct word, town drunks. This is no Mayberry where Otis comes in and takes the key off the wall and opens the door, locks himself in and goes off to sleep. While we have our share of those who go peacefully down the hall to the cell block, and even those who had family members drive their beloved drunk family member to the jail and unceremoniously boot them out the door into our loving arms, for the most part our drunks don't want to be locked up. They want to drink. They want to drink in peace and quiet. And one night they stumbled upon this lovely gingerbread construction, sort of an open air drinking spot...and they thought, (I can hear strains of "there's a plaaace for us...right here a place for us...") why how thoughtful. The town has erected us a gathering place. No more will we have to hide out in the back lots looking for concrete block upon which to rest our weary drunken bones. And a trash receptacle...don't know what that's for, bottles and cans belong littered upon the ground to prove that we were here...I was on my way home from work one night and saw my cousin (who was a town cop) sitting in her patrol car, parked where she had a clear view of the Gazebo. I pulled in next to her, my drivers side window next to her drivers side window (when you see cops parked like this along the highway, they're not trying to set the radar to work both already does that in one car alone...they're chatting...comparing calls, catching up on what's been going on) and asked her what was up. She had her reading glasses on and pushed them up on top of her head and laid the crossword puzzle book down on her lap. "We've been getting complaints that the Gazebo has turned into a gathering spot for every drunk in the far I count four...I looked over at where she indicated and named two "frequent flyers" from my own experience. I asked her what she was going to do. "Just waiting for them to get drunk enough to forget I'm here and start passing that bottle around...and they'll pass it around, believe me. Then that's when I'll go get them and take them off to the jail." We sat and talked for a couple of minutes and then it happened...happy hour in the Gazebo...she picked up her radio and called the jail. She told them she was about to be 10-67 four times and to meet her under the Sally port. This was a scene that was repeated every day. Sometimes several times a day...there were male and female drunks and the worst of them were the females. I'd rather have dealt with a drunk man than a drunk woman any time of the day. I don't remember how long the Gazebo stood on the little corner lot that was intended to be a park of sorts, but it wasn't long. Perhaps two years, maybe three. But the Council in all its wisdom deemed the Gazebo no longer a part of the beautification of Chesterfield, but an eyesore. And so they tore the little Gazebo down...nothing there now but sand and small tufts of Dallas grass. A few rocks to get stuck in the soles of your shoe if you walk that way towards the Western Auto. The drunks are now relegated out of sight mostly to the back lots, going to the red dot store (ABC Store, Liquor Store whatever you call it in your neck of the woods) and scurrying quickly away so that the Cops can't interfere with what they do best. And so as I stand gazing up towards the front drive where Mac was envisioning a Gazebo, I hear the words in my head just as they came in "Field of Dreams" it and they will come...". A chill went straight through me. I shook it off and muttered under my breath "oh no, not only no but HELL NO!"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Memories are made of this

Since I had surgery on my  foot April 17th, I've been confined to bed with my foot raised in the air  above my heart for at least  20 hours a day.  I've watched tv and read and just in general fought boredom tooth and nail.  Twice a week, on Monday and Friday my cousin Crystal comes to do the floors (vacuuming and mopping) laundry and housework in general...because that is what families do for each other.  I look forward to her visits so much that I fear I am wishing my life away, looking forward to the next time I see her   We mainly talk about our lives as children of summer.  We spent the summers with our grandparents working in tobacco and all that entailed.  This week VBS (Vacation Bible School) starts for Douglas Mill Baptist Church and many of the other churches in the county.  I remember the wonderful things that we did for our craft work, like making wallets and word burning Bible verses into planks of wood but most particularly the snow globes we made.  My Aunt Margaret (Kneece) collected baby food jars for weeks to form our globe.  In  the lid we put florist clay.  In the clay we placed a small artificial flower limb.  Then we filled the jar with mineral oil and moth ball flakes, carefully placed the lid on the jar and closed it tightly.  Shaking lightly, it snowed on our little flower garden.  I kept mine for years. Isn't it funny how something so easily done by small hands can leave such an impact on our lives.  We made   these little trinkets over 50 years ago and yet I can tell you that the lid was blue and the flowers made of plastic were lily of the valley.  I hope all the children involved in VBS this summer will look back in the year 2062 and remember the people who provided them with this wonderful time in their lives and tell you exactly what they crafted from inexpensive items.  To my Aunt Margaret....thanks for the memories.