My oldest and dearest friend called me up yesterday. She’s the one that used to entertain at parties by standing on a table, throwing her joints out, and then snapping them back in. The tricks got a lot of appreciative laughs at the time, but proved in the end to be her undoing. Tomorrow she’s going for her fourth hip replacement, and although it wasn’t mentioned, I think she may have wanted to be sure and say good-by. She told me she’s decided not to have her crooked elbow repaired because her kids won’t let her drive anymore, so as she said, What’s the point?
I mention all this because Wanda lives in the past, and after we had chatted about old times for quite a while, I brought up the subject of my new blog. It turned out that she had not heard of blog before and I did a terrible job of explaining it. She was completely bolluxed by the spelling and kept insisting that she must have heard it wrong, so we moved on to her kids and mine and the wonderful things kids do nowadays. After we hung up I got to thinking about one of my preoccupations, one that I suppose I have mentioned before, and that is the obsession older people have with The Old Times Were the Best Times. Wanda herself says she is happier now than she has ever been, having at this point buried all her old problems, while at the same time she looks back with longing at a youth preserved in her mind to the most minute detail. But many of the good things come and go; it’s not as if everything in the past is lost and gone forever. I wish that Fiona’s new saddle shoes had come before the phone call. Fiona slammed into the house after school carrying the Zappo’s box she had found on the porch. To my huge surprise I saw a pair of Bass saddles with regulation red rubber soles. I can tell you it took me back to my old life of teen-age rules and regulations. These new shoes of hers had black saddles–a bad choice, I thought, but I had the good sense to keep quiet about it.
I asked her if many kids had them, and here the difference between then and now became quite specific, because she told me she was the first one to have them, a real shocker to me the follower, never daring to appear in any thing that hadn’t been vouched for by the top 25% of my class. The difference is in the possibility of choice which in my own day did not exist. I have spent my adult life trying to cultivate it and can report that there are things you can do that nobody else does, things you believed for some reason that were forbidden for so many reasons, chiefly a natural inability to compete successfully with some star one could name right off the bat, or discourteous in some mysterious way, or simply ugly, or vulgar. I’m reminded here of my mother who, when taken to a McDonalds for the first time, looked around in an uncertain way and finally asked, But my dear, where is the silverware?
It liberates me to know that I have dared to blog. It liberates me to know I can talk about my vegetable garden and the purslane they have developed in seed that doesn’t begin to taste as good as the wild stuff that used to get tangled up with the onions, to know that I can put on my boots and walk out the back door across the chicken poop that a winter’s hospitality has left behind. Actually I am going to take a tour of this back garden with the terraces Jim has built, check out where I will put the new dwarf shrubs and the red lilies that I found hardy to Zone 4. I love walking Jim’s paths anyway. They have a goal–the tiny pond with its little stream where the goldfish now swimming aimlessly in their winter palace on the counter will be spending the warm months. Next to the pond Jim has built a bench of rock and it is the greatest treat in the world to sit up there in the heat of an August day, all deep shade, and down below and to the south blooming spirea, masses of echinacia, the brazen fox glove sticking its neck out where it certainly had not been planted by Betsy and me. What’s there all depends on the change of season and so is always a new delight if only because I had forgotten all about it.
Now it must be admitted that things aren’t really different at all. That old saw about what goes around comes around is right on the mark. Well, sure, my Puritan ancestors had a front garden filled mostly with medicinal herbs. Not many people have a front garden anymore and only a few have medicinal herbs. But many, many of us have a garden and we grow things we need, whether they are intended to pep up our food or to satisfy our aesthetic or healthful or spiritual desires. As I said to Betsy, All we need to do is learn how not to try to beat Nature at her own game. But Betsy answered that we Are nature. That said, I’m going to put on my boots and navigate across the patio and admire every plant that has started to come up under the snow.