One thing you can count on: the bells on the chestnut Street Methodist Church will explode in riotous tune making at noon and at other unspecified hours, when they play a wide selection of music from the old familiar hymns to popular songs from the past and the present. They were ringing me back to the house from the garden to the strains of My Old Kentucky Home. I’m sure the whole purpose of these musical interludes is to spread serenity across the land, and equally sure that the last thing in the world that would occur to them was that they might possibly irritate me. Still I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the words to the old sweet songs, and the old popular songs, and any other people song you might see traveling across the screen at a Community Sing. It’s suppertime, I said to myself, and immediately fell into a funk. Between My Old Kentucky Home (It was summer, the darkies were gay) and Irving Berlin’s Suppertime (Suppertime, time to set the table, cause it’s Suppertime. Somehow I”m not able, cause that man a mine, ain’t comin home no more) the hopelessness of fighting the status quo simply erased the joys of the previous twenty-four hours.
Sometimes, when we lived in the Bay Area ad had spent a Sunday afternoon at the San Francisco zoo, and the tired kids squabbled in the back seat, my husband would complain about their lack of appreciation.
You’ve spent a day having so much fun. Is it gone already? Can’t it last until we get home?
It must be a human trait. I couldn’t even make a hundred yards across the lawn without losing the exhiliration of a day spent doing exactly what I wanted to do, not to mention our combined birthday lunch with Rita on Sunday, and all it meant to us a reminder of a rich past of continuing friendship.
There is a flower called geum, a red blossom that keeps a strong grip on the end of a thin stem. It and its brothers and sisters swing and nod, moved by the slightest breeze, never breaking, simply tossed by the elements, thoughtless, a floral interpretation of Alfred E. Newman, and of me, I guess. What a difference a day makes. Here comes the sun. This morning the joys of the past trump the sad notes of yesterday. Carrots and fennel are up. Kale is recovering from its last day on a shelf at the plant stand. The two tomatoes are performing well so far. A hanging cherry tomato is covered with fruit. We ate our own onion and our own cilantro on tacos last night. I’ll call Rita and tell her how she once again established our link with the past, when Harry and Warren were still alive and Betsy was perhaps two or three years old.
It was at Rita’s that I made my first real garden.I followed all kinds of rules, making double dug beds, planting asparagus eight inches deep. It was such hard work and so worth every ounce of energy put into it. It was worth it just to be there and have Warren come out and invite me in for a beer break, when he might tell a story about his misspent youth. Now the men are gone; Betsy is a mother herself, and the birthdays we celebrate include Fiona, fourteen this year. Rita’s garden has taken on many new aspects, a fine pond, an expansive perennial bed. My garden moved to the country and ultimately here where Betsy and I have made a part wild, part rock garden with an arbor of clematis and hydrangea that oens into two terraces and a tiny pnd with a bench. Betsy does most of the work now and Fiona relucantly takes on a job here and there. Don’t worry, one of these days she’ll be ending the plants herself, maybe another two year old will be tugging at her pants leg. This isn’t just speculation. It’s the way of the world. This garden where we live is going to keep going up a hill covered with Solomon’s Seal and Pachysandra where the shade is deep. The gym set will be replaced by blueberries, the way Betsy plans it. The vegetable garden will develop and produce much of what we all eat. More chickens, more eggs. Watch out climate change, Betsy has entered the fight, and her team will win the next relay. It’s the way the world goes, and the old songs tell us how it used to be. The new songs are being written right now and like the canary that just flew past the window they will tell a brighter story.