Gardens of the Past

by Patsy Ann Taylor on June 25, 2012


Our twin hydrangeas are flourishing now that the weather is kind. Recently, the gardener moved one of them from where it spread across the back fence, to a shady spot under our bedroom window. Tucked into a protected corner, the plant has grown a foot or more since its arrival. Now the two hydrangeas can flutter their leaves at each other when a breeze drifts by.

Seeing flowers in my back yard takes me to childhood gardens my parents, especially my mother, cultivated. The house on Armacost in West Lost Angeles had the gardens I remember most clearly.

Dahlias with their perfect shape and brilliant crimsons, yellows, and corals grew in profusion along the fence that separated our property from the family on the north. Our driveway, and a fence belonging to our neighbors the MacDonalds, marked the boundary on the south side. Snapdragons, roses, irises, gladiolas, and pansies crowded the flowerbeds in all of the gardens we had as I grew up.

My parents had green thumbs and didn’t limit their talents to the ornamental, cutting garden. During World War II we had a “Victory Garden” and raised rabbits. While flowers decorated the front, in the backyard––behind the playhouse, the rabbit hutch, the quince and loquat trees, and the incinerator––our dinner table favorites dominated: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, green onions, radishes, peas, and green beans. Both of my parents tended the rabbits we raised, for food and for sale. My brother and I were allowed to fill their water dishes, but feeding was left to Mom and Dad. Over feeding could harm the rabbits.

I remember when one of the hutch doors was left ajar and a large male we called Jackie––or something like that––escaped to the vegetable garden where he proceeded to eat himself into a stupor. Dad captured Jackie chomping his way through a row of lettuce and returned him to his cage making sure the door was firmly latched. Mother wrung her hands over what we would do for vegetables until the next crop. Dad handed her a five-dollar bill, enough money to fill our refrigerator with fruits and vegetables for weeks, and told her that would make the produce man at our grocery happy. We’d buy what we couldn’t grow.

Though my parents never discussed the subject within my hearing, I know we did not, could not, eat the full bounty of our garden. What we couldn’t use they shared  with neighbors. The MacDonald family raised chickens––one rooster and no less than a dozen hens. They liked our rabbits and fruit from the trees. So we never lacked for eggs at breakfast, or a plump fried chicken for dinner. The generosity of our two families made rationing and shortages during those years more bearable.

Aunts and uncles who lived in homes too small for gardens joined in these trades as well. My grandmother made strawberry jam from our berries while the rest of the family pooled their sugar rations to sweeten the jam. On weekends, our family dinners teemed with boisterous kids and their parents. Along with the cakes and pies and home made breads they carried in, came the stories of their growing up years. Those times together filled our stomachs and our spirits. We were never hungry.

Now, as I stand in my own small garden, admiring the hydrangeas, I smile with thanks for all my parents showed my brother and me as they worked with the soil: the beauty of flowers, the bounty of home grown food, and the reward that comes from sharing our blessings.

Romancing the Stone

by Patsy Ann Taylor on March 4, 2012

Blarney Castle, County Cork, Ireland

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, my thoughts go back a trip to Ireland I took with my husband a few years ago. Kissing the Blarney Stone as one of the goals, we made our way to County Cork, Ireland, home of the famous rock.
Myth, legend, and romance are wrapped around the stone, which is also called The Stone of Destiny. My favorite tale goes something like this: Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, saved a local witch from drowning in the lake behind Blarney Castle. In return, the witch rewarded him with the secret of the stone: the gift of eloquence.
Every year thousands of people from all over the world travel to the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. We were among them. I don’t know if kissing the Blarney Stone made me eloquent. “Yer full of the Blarney” or “Ya musta kissed the Blarney Stone” are words that have followed me since childhood. Now I can answer, “Yes, I am and yes, I have.”

Happy Holiday

December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning Coffee perking in the chrome pot makes waking early bearable Scents of oak and lemon fire wood compete with tinsel wrapped pine.  Since first light our kids have waited to hear the crinkle of holiday wrap Shreds of tissue drift like confetti Giggles and shouts Just what I wanted  Later, cinnamon cake fresh […]

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Do Overs

December 10, 2011

What was once my future is now my past. Writing Memoir lets me relive parts of my life. But this time most of the fear is gone because I know how it all worked out.  Perspective comes from a place of experience. Those things my parents, teachers, and other adults tried to teach me or caution […]

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November 7, 2011
Thumbnail image for Flippers

Alice sat alone in the boat, the sun drying her skin to leather. Her roommates evidently felt no need to see she was entertained while they enjoyed the Maui waters. “You’ll love snorkeling,” they’d assured her. But they were wrong. Alice hated anything to do with being in water, other than showers, of course. “Sure […]

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Writing After Midnight

October 28, 2011

No candles for me. No flashlights under the blankets. I need the full 100 watts, or what passes for that these days. And snacks. A writer works up an appetite when dinner happened at six or maybe seven at night. Apples and cheese, maybe a leftover hot dog and chips. Plenty of chips. And paper. […]

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