Wednesday, July 26, 2017
A Garden Story
Growing up we never used the term "backyard," we always said "garden." Our childhood garden was on Wwww Street in the St Mmmm's of the @@@@@'s parish. It consisted of a brick patio that housed a swing and a picnic table set on white marble slabs. The other half was soil that occasionally yielded glass marbles and tiddly winks--mementos left behind previous children from previous times. One time my mother found 2 rings. About 10 years ago, my mother met a man by the viaduct about a 1/2 block north of her house. He grew up in her house. He sent a photo from the 1930s of himself on a high wheeled tricycle, boxes or fruit and vegetables in front of the building. My mother's front room used to be a storefront deli. Bubblegum machine, cola clock, icebox, marble counters were moved to the basement. My mother used the smoker into the 1980s.
The former resident came to visit the following summer with a friend wearing a Leica camera who took pictures in the garden. The steps to the alley and basement were as steep and uneven as he remembered. He took away a souvenir purple brick. He said the 3-story fire escape came off a factory building that was demolished and that it was rumored that Al Capone's car was buried under the garage.
When my parents moved in, they planted a sole plum tree--flowers--no fruit and 2 prolific sour cherry trees. A highlight of the summer was the great feeling of relief that school was over and retreating into the garden. Wondering as the tall, scratchy hollyhocks and the weirdly patterned bugs crawling on the hard, green buds. My mom has photos of her, her friends, and baby me picnicking, relaxing.
When my brothers reached a rambunctious, climbing age, my mother had the tree cut down to avoid falls. My father had died suddenly and she was trying to avoid further grief. The soil baked dry. The only things that grew were plantain and creeping Charlie, sweet violets in the moist spot by the bricks and a pink fairy rose bush that miraculously flowered every year.
In the 1980s, the city hopefully planted grass sod in everyone's parkway. Young tenants moved in, removed the grass and planted flowers. My mother resented the action at first, but it awakened her love of gardening. She added in pink phlox, Susan-black-eyes, astible. She replanted the fairy rosebush in front and reclaimed the garden in back for tomatoes and beans.
One year scarlet runner beans gamboled up to the attic window via the fire escape. This year I tilled up her soil--no more marbles or tiddly winks. ###