Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Garden

My grandparents lived in a lovely little village in Wales, called Crickhowell. Every year while I was growing up, my mum packed us three kids up to stay with them there for the summer. She downright refused, much to our derision, to ever bring us over for Christmas, vowing never to endure again the harsh Northern winters of her childhood. Having lived in hot climates all our lives, always yearning to play in snow, I suppose us kids took for granted those warm Welsh summers much more than she did, seeing as Mum was always bounding across green fields and down lanes with so much zeal every morning. But eventually Crickhowell’s magic crept up on us, seeping through like the persistent summer dusk that that could not be shut out of our bedrooms, even after ten o’clock at night.

It began with the garden. It was our grandparents’ greatest pride in that house. Every morning we’d gather round the bed in their room, where they’d both be sitting up—Nana holding a cup of tea and Grampy with a huge pair of binoculars around his neck—fiercely looking out on the backyard activities. The thrush who lived between the conifer trees was welcome; her little territory was a graveyard, littered with the empty houses of pesky snails. Rabbits and moles were not, and whenever he’d catch one during the daily watch Grampy’d spring up off the bed like he was making to jump out the window but had at the last minute thought better of it. He’d call us over saying, “C’mon kids, look! Look over there!” and then after sufficient time had passed to be totally annoyed, would mumble, “pesky rabbits…” over and over again to himself. I wondered whether, had he ever managed to catch one, they would have shared the same fate as Peter Rabbit’s father, became terrified that one day we’d be sitting round the table eating rabbit stew for lunch.

The garden was divided between three levels. You came out to it through the utility room on the side of the house, and then by walking through a narrow path stacked with wellington boots, gardening gloves, oasis blocks for Nana’s flower arrangements, and watering cans. There on the top level was my grandfather’s greenhouse, inside of which the oddest-shaped vegetables you’d ever seen grew. He’d pull out a big, curved cucumber for me, or a little three-headed grape tomato, and smile—he always had the widest grin of anybody I knew. Next to that was the outside table, where a bee once flew into Mum’s wine glass and came out drunk, and where she told me that money spiders bring good luck.

The middle level of the garden was a rectangular piece of grass surrounded by a border of flowers that Nana had planted. Later on, years after we stopped visiting, they put a fountain in this patch that I never got to see. One of my jobs there was to fish out slugs that liked to chew up her lamb’s ear and drop them all in a slimy bucket. Grumpily I’d wonder who did this awful task the rest of the year, as I could see no way on earth our Nana, who hated any kind of creepy-crawlies, would ever be caught doing it! Her roses grew to about five feet tall, were like trees to me back then. They extended down to the bottom of the garden, on the opposite side of which was the long row of Grampy’s berries and peas. These needed a net of defenses draped over them at all times—they were the prize that fuelled the war between our granddad and all the birds that flew into the garden to ravage them. Somewhere close by there was also a patch for lettuce and potatoes to grow. Everything we could eat from the garden came in through that utility room on the side to be washed down at lunch with cold meats and a never-ending supply of fuscia-coloured beets.

Though I didn’t think it then, I’m quite glad now that I never saw the garden in the winter. As beautiful as it would look laced in white snow, everything that gave it its magic would be dormant or dead, and these memories might not have stayed the same. When I was ten we moved countries again, and we had to give up our Crickhowell summers. Many years after that, Nana and Grampy passed away. They were buried at the village chapel. I can’t think of them without remembering the garden that was their pride and joy. At its very bottom there was a small iron gate that led out to a huge green field, with more fields and a beautiful canal beyond.

In my mind it swings open, and I run out, and I keep on running through the Welsh countryside forever and ever…

9 comments:

  1. oh nice memories...love that last line..my grandparents house was a magical place for me growing up...nice magpie!

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  2. This is truly lovely ,,,, each word and each memory!

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  3. keep running for magic,
    very beautiful tale.

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  4. Such lovely memories - well told!

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  5. I lost myself in your story. I could see myself in that magical garden. Beautiful.

    www.angiemuresan.com

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  6. nice memories..childhood memories are the best!

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  7. What lovely memories of a garden and your ending was perfect, it kept the story going in my mind.

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  8. Nice Magpie - childhood memories of Welsh summers are the best!

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  9. Thank you for a visit to the Welsh countryside! I also thought it would be neat to visit my grandparents during their snowy Idaho winters--until I drove there myself during college. Summer was much more pleasant.

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