Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gramma's Garden

A couple of times lately, I’ve noticed the pretty peonies in full bloom a few blocks down the street from where I live. Those flowers take me back, as if it were yesterday, to what I will call Gramma’s Garden. Anyone who’s read my memoirs knows my paternal grandmother was a bright light in my childhood and I spent every moment I could with her. Gramma had a huge yard full of flowers, fruit trees, and berry bushes.

Of all those plants, the three peony bushes are most vivid in my mind. They were planted in a row, set apart from everything else. They were the garden highlights! One was white; one was rose pink; the third one was deep maroon. When I was a very young child, I would eagerly await the opening of their petals each Spring (once I had realized that it was at this time of year that they did appear and open). One year when I was about five or six years old, the day came when I found I could not wait for them to open. I’d looked at their buds for several days in a row. Each firm bud was round, with neatly and tightly folded petals ... petals that revealed a bit of their color. I remember manually trying to open many of the buds with my fingers, especially on the maroon bush, which was my favorite. It didn’t work and I remember my disappointment, followed by the fearful realization that I’d done something I shouldn’t have done. Later that week, Gramma went out to check her peony bushes, probably wondering why there were so few fully open flowers visible from her kitchen window! She went out and inspected them and then asked me if I knew anything about it. I confessed. She said something about the maroon peonies being the most expensive and hard color to find and I could see how sad she was, but then she let it go, because she knew how guilty I felt. I never went near the peonies again, but always admired them from a distance.

Of course, Grampa was the one who did most of the manual labor in the huge yard and mini farm. He did this evenings and weekends, because during the week, he worked a regular work day schedule as the manager of a big factory in New Haven. Nonetheless, I always thought of the vegetation as "Gramma’s Garden".

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