Remembering my grandmother's garden
We called her Bubba. Her first grandchild couldn't say grandma but instead said “Bubba” and it stuck. She has been gone for a long time now, but I remember fondly her garden. It was always blooming with millions of flowers, and fruit trees and the garden always had tasty treats for us. I especially remember her huge poppies, red and growing tall and strong.
Recently I took a trip down memory lane and drove by my grandparents' house. After my grandmother died, it was sold and I haven't been by the place in years. So with great anticipation, I drove up their little lane. It's an older neighborhood, and when they lived there, it was full of young families and years later, elderly. Hoping to find a resurgence of young families, I was dismayed to see the houses on the street sad and run down. I slowed down and gasped. The little house was sorely in need of TLC and did not even resemble the wonderful house from my girlhood memories. It was painted the wrong color, the yard was nearly gone. The big tree in the front yard was chopped off leaving an unsightly trunk sticking up about 5 feet. There just wasn't hardly anything left of the dear old place. Plus, it looked so very small from my memories.
I left, sad, and for days, could not get that image of the poor little house out of my mind.
I started thinking about all the wonderful elements of their house. The colors inside the home, the room layouts, the big dinners we had on holidays cramming all of us into the living room with tables jammed up to make a long dining table. And that lush garden out back. The cherry and plum trees and the huge Elm tree that overlooked the entire back yard. I recalled cherry pitting afternoons using empty cottage cheese containers that we would use to freeze up cherries for future pies. Bubba working at the pitting, and the grandkids scooping the cherries up. My cousin Tommy stuffing a handful of grass from the lawn into the bottom of one of the containers and then topping it off with cherries! I looked startled at him and then he winked and held his finger up and told me shhhhh!
A few weeks ago, I was helping my mother go through my recently departed father's library. She was getting rid of lots of books, and handed me a journal book that my grandfather kept for several years. After he passed away, my grandmother picked up the journal and wrote regularly for 5 years. Throughout the journal, both kept notes on the garden. What a treasure!
After reading the journal, and still sad over their house lost forever, I decided to create a painting of their house as I remember it. The big tree in the back yard, the poppies. I used the buttons in the tree, because Bubba always had jars of buttons that I loved sorting through as a child. I copied some pages out of the journal on the copier, and used them on the roof of the house. I painted a quilt pattern in the big window. This was their bedroom window that looked out into the garden. It was a large room and my grandmother would have her quilt group over to work on quilts on the big quilt rack that she had set up in the bedroom.
So their house is now reborn on my canvas and will have a special place in my studio. Working on the piece, helped me heal some pain from losing my father. This was the house he grew up in and later, the house he brought his war bride, my mother, to when he came home from the World War II. My parents lived there for a short time in the little guest house out back. I lived in the guest house my first year in college because my parents had moved to a nearby town for Dad's job. So many memories for all of us.
And once again, my art saves me.