Tag Archives: flower gardens

Beheaded.

Humans feel pain and loss in different ways, and for reasons that are not all the same.

When a loved one dies we all gather around, bringing our empathies with us for comfort. When a pet passes, those who have enjoyed the devotion of an animal share each other’s grief.

Part of what binds us to each other is as much how we cope with the end of living as we do its beginnings.

I am a childless woman. Beyond the age of conceiving, although having spent the majority of my years in the service of young people as teacher, my body is no longer able to generate life. However, I do feel and give love towards all living things. But, because animals usually die before their masters do, and because I have endured the departure of both of my parents, I have opted to raise that which grows in the ground, instead.

Yes; I am a small time, untrained gardener.

Roses were my first love. The large, cabbage blush yellows filled the front porch stairwell with as many as thirty three blossoms every June. I let them reach for the sky, each spring, ignorant of the need for maintenance pruning until the first of a series of harsh winters chose to break one of their sturdy trunks. What was once a flourishing sight was reduced to a fledgling, fighting for life. Now, every time that blush yellow manages even two or three blooms, I am succoured, thankful for Providential forgiveness.

Next came the pinks. These enjoyed their central stage on the front yard, and soon filled out majestically to supplant the blush yellow’s original grandeur. Two winters ago, this bush also seemed vanquished until, having learned my lesson the hard way, I consulted a gardening specialist and obtained the encouraging words that, cutting its branches back, its roots would send forth renewing shoots. My delight at the sight of those first tufts emerging from dry, grey death could hardly be described.

But, my tropical. This one was the baby in the family. I had planted this intense, almost fluorescent orange-red in the back yard, just visible from the side entry. Perhaps it was the soil quality, or the heavy hedge overhang, but this bush always struggled a bit to produce. Maybe this is why I was always ecstatic when its blooms would finally appear. Never plentiful, they were, however, by far the most beautiful of all.

From roses I graduated to peonies and, then, giant poppies. These filled in the remaining front strip across the west facing porch. The bright orange a stand out against their blushing counterparts, these were among my true offspring, and I loved them.

Last week, I took a much needed break from routine and went on a short trip. This was the Memorial Day holiday, my best college friend was preparing to move from the East to the West coast, my godchild was slated to perform, and I had several reasons to spend time with these dear ones.

Before leaving, I secured the house and personal items, and had the yard mowed by two boys who had most recently become available in the neighborhood. Not lazy, I had been diagnosed with grass and pollen allergies years before, and had always resorted to hiring various ones to landscape for me. These brothers were reliable and eager, and seemed able to take my specific instructions regarding protection of the tender vegetation, particularly when they worked as a team.

But, I had noted a marked difference between the two boys. They appeared to be fraternal twins, resembling each other in height and carriage but bearing distinct features and personality. One seemed to be afflicted with subtle limitations and, as a trained teacher, I both recognized this and determined to treat both brothers equally.

So, when only one of the boys appeared a day earlier than scheduled, in the midst of giving private lessons I hastily agreed to let him mow the lawn – calling out a reminder about the rose bush in the back and the poppies in the very front.

I never ventured outside again until the cab came for me in the pitch black of 3:30 am the next day.

My time in Long Island was blessed. A lifelong friendship, the kind that never ends. Saying “goodbye” this time was more about the trip East, with all its familiar vibrancies; our next visit would have to wait until their family was transplanted to California. New garden, new growth.

Returning from the airport, I bounded out of the car and up the entryway platforms to see if my tropical had bloomed while I was away.

The horror was beyond surreal.

My rosebush was gone. Leaping across the deck, I dropped down next to the soil. Two inches of stalk remained, its desperate attempts at regrowth trying to emerge. My baby had been beheaded.

Wailing like a mother in a death ward, I tore around to the front of the house, dreading the sight. The poppies. The poppies had also disappeared.  Nothing but stumps, these wet and dark, with no sign of life anywhere.

I couldn’t even stand up.

Pulling myself into the house, I sat for several minutes in mute agony. All the happy memories of the five days away compressed into a black hole, escaping my consciousness. Nothing else mattered; my babies were no more.

Parents are never either prepared or trained. Giving birth is enough of a miracle, and people generally assume that the earnest and most well meaning among us will do a decent job of bringing up their own children. Some let them grow wild, never cutting them down or holding them back, and live with the outcome; still others prune and shape, hoping for some version of sinless perfection in the sight of God. But, even the best parents can’t be ready if, by some act of the universe, their children are suddenly taken from them. Every human wrestles with all manner of conflicting feelings when this happens: rage; disbelief; even guilt. Somehow, something must be to blame for such unspeakable pain.

In my case, the rose bush and the poppies were cut down by a boy who acted obliviously. His capacity for comprehension was not exceeded by his willingness to help; and, the act of destruction he committed was unwitting.

Flowers already know their limitations. In agreement with the earth beneath, they will dig deep, and try to renew, or be replaced by their own next generation. But, I am left, like so many parents, husbands, wives, children, and lovers, to fight the inner battle for forgiveness in the silence of my own, fragile, solitary existence.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

5/27/15   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Scent of Nickel.

The freight train is moving east across 15th.

Its warning horn blends with the breeze in the newly leafing trees, and a scent wafts through that spins me into the deep past.

We are in the late 1960’s. I am a child. It is Dad’s day off from the barbershop, where he works cutting hair; Mum is outside, on her knees, putting in the red geraniums along the walkway leading to the front porch.

The black DeSoto is parked by the telephone pole. I scramble in, and Dad takes me with him down Parade Street, windows wide open. We stop at the tracks at 15th, to wait for the train. I look across at the feed store, and inhale deeply the mixture of grain, soil and soot. The sound of the train, the smell, the look. I watch each car fly by. When the caboose disappears, the sun brightens ahead of us through the windshield. We cross the tracks, and move on.

Coasting further down to 5th, we turn right one block to get to the shop. He’s whistling.

Unlocking the front storm door, Dad lets me scamper in ahead. The old cigar ashes fill the air. He flicks on the black and white cabinet Tv, gathers his broom and dustpan, and begins to sweep the floor of cut hair residue. I sit on the bouncy vinyl chair cushion and run my hands along the smoothe, tubular, nickel plated arm rests. I look at the tall pedestal ash trays, filled with grey mounds the size of cremated remains.

Worn magazines are piled on the small tables, Sports Illustrated, Mechanics Illustrated, men’s magazines, the pages all slippery, the pictures all black and angular and strange. I look for the pretty girl in the bathing suit.

The faces on the Tv are talking. Their voices have a buzz in them, not like people sound in real life. I watch my father sweep the floor, swinging my legs over the side of the puffy vinyl chair.

He’s all done. Walking past me into the back room, he gathers all the soiled towels to take home for Mum to wash. I run back quickly to use the rusty toilet. I smell the must, and stare around at the manly grunge.

We head back up Wallace, then over to Ash. We pass Peterman’s Market, the old Russian church. We turn right at Ash, and head up the slight hill under the overpass. The train is long gone, but we can still smell it. Dad toots his car horn under the pass, and the sound is loud and grande. We both laugh. The sun is still bright as we pass the Polish Falcons and then the corner store.

Soon, we are home. Mum looks up and smiles as we pull in the drive. Dad gets out of the car and walks up to her, jingling the change in his pants pocket.

There will be rigatonis for supper.

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The freight continues its trek east toward the New York State line, moaning its horn the whole way. And, I inhale again, reaching from down in the pockets of my lungs for that last remnant of the scent of nickel.

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.© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

5/12/15  All rights reserved. Thank you for the daytrip.

littlebarefeetblog.com