Visceral memories of Spring always bring me back to my Grandma’s house. She lived ten minutes down the road, in a post WWII ranch, built in the 1950’s, on a half acre lot. Grandpa had built a screened in patio, along the back of the house, before he died. A narrow corridor between the garage and the house, led to the backyard and patio door. Funny, we rarely used the front door to enter the house, instead we made our way to the back, sure to find Grandma sitting on the porch swing, drinking tea or smoking a cigarette.
I spent many a Spring weekend, staying with my Grandma. Sleeping with the bedroom windows cracked open, I loved waking up to the sounds of birds and the pitter patter of raindrops on the panes. The smell of bleach coming from the laundry room, a sign of towels or “whites” tumbling in the wash machine. I would slowly rise, eat a bowl of corn flakes with broken pieces of fudge striped cookies and milk in it. A yummy trick I learned from my Uncle.
After I had brushed my teeth and gotten dressed, I would step into the wonderland that was the backyard. A flat stone path, of varying colors and sizes, led down the length of the screened in patio. It was lined with field stones, a border for the flower and shrub garden. A burning bush sat at the center, with a menagerie of annual and perennial blooms and medium sized evergreens. Fuzzy lamb’s ear, orange and yellow marigolds, red, white, and pink geraniums, delicate inpatients, and tall peonies to list a few.
The path led around a corner, where a towering arborvitae stood. The downspout from the top of the patio roof, terminated under the tree. I crouched down to listen, as the water tapped along the metal. It would trickle out onto a pebbled catch basin, where I ran my hand over the wet bumpy surface, breathing in the freshly washed air. I felt one with nature, connected and grounded.
I turned and headed up the hill into the wooded yard. The maples and oaks seemed enormous to me as a child. It was a mystical place to wander. My imagination came to life and I would play out scenes of survival and adventure. Singing songs out loud from my favorite Disney movies. Grandma never bothered me. I was left to my own senses. This little piece of Earth, at my disposal.
Later, after the rain stopped, Grandma would educate me on container planting and vegetable gardening. We would walk together, as she showed me her growing tomato and pepper plants, guarded from pesky rabbits and birds, by wire fencing and pieces of tin pie pans. She would tear off some green onion and place it in her mouth, chewing and nodding her head. I looked at her in astonishment, and then followed her lead. It was tangy, chewy and slightly spicy. “Not bad”, I thought to myself, “Not bad at all”.
She brought out a plastic pot from the garage and poured in a bag of black dirt. She ran her hands through it, creating spaces for the flowers that would soon flourish. One by one, she gently pressed them in to place. Snug in their new home. She filled the watering can from the spigot, taking care, so that it was not too heavy for me to lift. Then I let the water rain down, sprinkling the leaves, saturating the soil. Cultivating new life with Springtime showers.