In my earliest memory I am in the backyard of my family’s first home. Clutching a doll or softie, I am crouched low watching a tiny rivulet running through the grass exposing earth and pebbles. I am quite content, alone in my wonder.
I shared this memory with my older sister a while back musing over the tall trees that enclosed this private world. There was a long quiet. Finally she said, “We didn’t have big trees but you were so small I guess they would seem tall to you.”
The truth doesn’t change my memory and the photo verifies that trees and shrubs could have seemed quite tall to me. I’m glad for that place and time where the earth came with child-sized river and pebbles, grass and trees captured my soul with wonder.
There were many gardens in my childhood memories. My city Grandparents raised beds of flowers and grape arbor invited games of balance on the curbing.
My Uncle’ country property was carpeted in early summer with dandelions to be picked for Grandmother’s wine making. I remember in late summer the hum of bees and the scent of ripe apples and pears waiting to be gathered and preserved.
After we moved, the next door neighbor’s garden behind the aged picket fence intrigued me with its terraced hill, willow tree and fish pond.
My memories of our first home are few but I would often hear my Mother refer back to that yard in a kind of wonder – “You could grow anything there.” Usually this was followed by a litany of flowers and victory garden offerings that where in great contrast to the yard around us where constant coaxing and composting produced only modest years in the clay that surrounded the house.
I had no complaints for there are wonderful memories of play there. The overhanging roof along the dining room dripped a channel in the grass and a bridge from an old aquarium crossed its pebbled banks and dollhouse people ventured there on outings. And there was an odd space on the top of our un-terraced hill that my brother cleared for a sandbox. One could feel hidden, so far above the world there! I also remember sheet and blanket tents hung from clothesline and a bridal wreath bush that became a flowery haven providing crowns for the princesses in the short bloom season.
Then all too soon we were too big for such play and retreated to the front porch with games and books to wile away the summer days. But magic still happened and I remember the year the mimosa tree had grown to be seen from my bedroom window. When I woke, the delicate pink puffs seemed to be a floating cloud accompanied by bird song.
The gardening activities of those times involved picking flowers, gathering mint for summer tea, scattering 4 o’clock seeds (where they were not wanted – but they were so easy to gather!), dispatching Japanese beetles and picking an occasional weed. These were hardly activities to prepare me for tending a garden but truly those which blessed my soul and laid the foundation for a life of enjoyment in gardens.