The balcony of my new house looks out over a long side garden, shaggy with neglect but blooming with memories—memories of love and surprise and greenery.

I am immediately swept back to thirty years ago when I lived in a historic house in NC. Plants grew in profusion around the house (and sometimes into the basement). With the help of books and neighbors, I tended to the garden, hoping for the approval of the area garden society. For the first few days of each new month, women, and a few men peeked out our windows and screen doors, searching for the little white sign, no bigger than a sheet of paper, that screamed, tastefully, Yard of the Month. Oh, how I wanted that small sign of achievement, of belonging, of being extra-special among the special people who could see beyond the dilapidated houses and untidy gardens. We dreamed of renovated gingerbread homes surrounded by English country gardens.

But during that time, I was married to a man who loved me. And with that love came many green, he dug trenches and made flower beds, and not-so-green, keep reading, repercussions. 

Like the time I received a phone call from my friend across the street, the head of the garden society.“Uh, Trudi?”

“Yes. What’s wrong?”

“Do you know your husband’s transplanting poison ivy throughout your yard?”

“Noooooo. Brenda, let me call you back,” I said, looking out a window. Sure enough, there was my extra-tall hubby, tenderly digging around the root structure of a shiny three-leaved vine. 

Rod stood up, holding the just-making-me-itchy-looking-at-it tendrils, and pointed to a prominent place in the front yard. I smiled back, or at least tried, noting the position of its new home.

Beaming and blowing kisses to me, my husband wove vines of poison ivy into my prize patch of dinner-plate dahlias, growing around the gnome sent from my Scottish aunt. He planted the ivy between the jasmine bunches and gladioli around both sides of the front porch.

The phone rang on and off throughout the sunny afternoon. With each call, I made a note on a chart of where hubby-dear was planting another clump of poison ivy. From my position at the window, I could see the mystified expression of my neighbor when she called me. She would stand in the front window and point to another position in my yard. Sure enough, there was my darling digging away.

Bringing him a beer and as casually as possible, I suggested Rod go out with his guy friends that night, saying he needed some fun time after he had worked so hard that afternoon. “Oh, and by the way, why don’t you wash your hands before you touch anything? Now. Really. You know, next door’s cat likes to spray the bushes… Wash them good.” I said that keeping a good five feet between us.

“Maybe wash them again… “

The story continues in the next post…

(Image by my sister, Victoria Young. Used by permission. You do not have permission to use the image in any way!)

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