“It’s great to see everything so beautifully grown,” he said. My beautifully grownup son was visiting recently. He was referring to our garden, of course, but I was looking at him when I agreed wholehearted.
My “kids,” young adults who are making their way in the world of graduate school and job promotions, tend to visit in bunches at Christmas and in time to enjoy our island’s 4th of July. They like spending time with each other, and since they live in three states spread from the Northwest to the Southeast, it takes some effort to make that happen.
As much as the weather would allow, we hung out in the garden while they were here. Things really have filled in nicely. The tiny four-inch pots of herbs, heathers and root-stock roses now are bushel-sized, robust and filled with blooms.
Have you noticed what a jungle our island became over our long, dark, wet, cold winter? Who knew that when we were in despair over spring ever arriving, our plants were growing deep, happy roots.
All it took was some sunshine, a warm day here, another rainstorm there, and BOOM! Growth! Magnificent, road-barring, car door-scraping, path-blocking growth occurred.
And now, from my desk’s window I’m greeted this morning by the first bloom of the magnolia tree. Just as the dogwood blossoms fade, just as the roses drop their petals like a teenaged girl trying on and shedding outfit after outfit until the bedroom floor disappears — just when our bit of heat threatens dormancy — the odd little magnolia produces her blooms.
We had a saying where I came from, left over from the courage of pioneers who abandoned the fertile lands of Illinois, New England and jolly old England to live in the Great Basin Desert. They were promised that the desert would blossom like a rose.
It did, of course, and continues to, at least when you plant some roses in the salty soil and divert snowpack runoff and spray precious water over lawns and gardens.
But if you want to promise something amazing, try getting something to blossom like a magnolia! There’s a bloom for you, plate-sized, too fragrant to bring indoors, creamy white and totally unexpected perched among leathery leaves the color of camouflage fatigues.
The last several weekends I’ve enjoyed hanging out with our townsfolk and the 10-or 20,000 visitors who came over to walk all over Winslow. (Think of our weekends’ trifecta of the Rotary Auction, followed by the 4th of July, followed by Bainbridge in Bloom — we must be keeping the ferry system solvent.)
What I liked best was seeing our crop of kids who seem to have grown stealthily over the winter. One dark-haired beauty in the 4th of July parade seated among the other kids heading to Camp Siberia spotted me sitting on the wall in front of City Hall. “Eve,” she shouted, waving and smiling at me.
“Hey, Mom,” my daughter said, “you got a ‘call out.’”
Is it the quality of the sunshine or the glacial waters in our aquifers or all the organic produce at our farmer’s market that seems to nurture our kids into something simply amazing?
Driving along High School Road my daughter and I passed squads of kids making as much racket as they could to draw customers for their car wash. “I don’t think I ever had that much enthusiasm in high school,” she said.
She’s right. She didn’t much blossom in high school. Graduate school seems to be the right place for her.
We finished my kids’ visit with a surprise birthday party for Chris, the youngest. We were a week early so he didn’t see it coming, complete with cake and presents. I tried all day to keep him from helping with the meal, but Chris is a great cook and it’s his nature to be helpful.
We’ve almost come full circle: my youngest is now the age I was when I became a mother. It’s their season now.
But, last Saturday night, for one evening we all reverted to the childhood days of silly party hats and dress up. We got started by the present my daughter gave her brother, a shaggy blond wig, which called for photos and much laughter.
She loved to dress up her little brothers back when she ruled their roost. Now the black beard Chris has grown either spoils or heightens the effect. I dug out the bag of costumes I’m saving for days when grandchildren want to play dress up. There were almost enough silly hats to go around. It was grand.
And then after the weekend, one by one, they caught the ferries and headed back to their grownup lives. It’s a quieter, emptier house now, and even the garden seems still. Fortunately for me, this morning the magnolia decided to blossom.
Eve Leonard is a island writer and real estate agent.