Even when I stand in my front yard, I can smell the Confederate jasmine blooming above the swing out back, and when I walk outside, the sweet smell of petunias wafts to my nose. I love the deep purple variety and have them in pots on the front and back decks. Their red, white, and pink cousins grow in the yard. Many of them volunteer, and we’re delighted when they do. Right now we have a white one thriving at the end of a row of broccoli in the back garden. We like to think that these petunias are descendants of Larry’s mother’s flowers that she once grew here.
Out in the back yard I have Grandma Nichols’ wine and milk lilies and nearby are Grandpa Hayes’ pink roses—small ones that bloom only once a year, but most gloriously. Mama brought me the sycamore tree out front when it was just a sprig in a duck-shaped flowerpot. We never dreamed it would grow so big or play such a role in our family’s life. We may have enjoyed it more than any other plant on the place. Last weekend the youngest grand children climbed in it. Years ago Stuart climbed in it when he was so small that his Uncle Jakey had to climb it with him to keep him safe.
The silver maple is just now starting to bud, later than everything else as usual. Jakey planted it to memorialize his cat Sammy, which he lovingly buried beneath the tree. Every time I look at the tree I think of Jakey and Sammy. It was Calvin who planted the magnolia down by the grape vine that Larry’s daddy planted.
Recently I stood before a rack of seed packets, and suddenly the multi-colored sweet peas sent me spiraling back through the years to my childhood and to Aunt Jincey’s garden. I could almost smell them. I bought two large packets. I want her legacy in my yard, too.
Over the years Larry and I have planted many a flower and vegetable, from the blueberries to butterfly bushes—buddleias, if you care to be botanically correct. Butterflies come as a bonus and make me think of flying flowers. Something about spring puts me in the mood to dig my hands in the rich black dirt of South Georgia, to smell its splendor, to bury many seeds therein. And I have.
I’ve spent hours on my hands and knees in the marigold patch this week. We have hundreds of plants from last year’s seeds, but they’re so thick that I had to separate them and put them where I want them to grow. Working close to the ground, I did a lot of crawling in the bed. My fingers have been sore from my labors all week, as are my knees and various other parts of my body.
Sore and achy, I stood at Union Springs cemetery last Friday at the funeral of one of my younger cousins—this one only 47. Ann leaves behind a husband and two teenagers still at home, in addition to her other family members. Many, many Hayes relatives sleep beneath the stones in that peaceful place, but as I gazed at my living cousins, I observed so many things I’d never noticed before. Betty and I are shaped alike and we walk alike. And why not? We come from the same gene pool. What about our hunger for the dirt? Does that come from a gene pool as well? So many of us had hands roughened from working in the dirt, often without gloves. We come from farmer stock. Perhaps that explains some deep unity that we all share. We seemed more aware of it than ever before.
Margie said to me, “I’d never noticed how much you favor Debbie (another cousin), especially across the nose and mouth.”
Back home I dragged my sore, stiff body back to my marigold bed, and as I worked, I thought about my family members. We all have our spots to fill. Into its own little spot, I carefully tucked each marigold, be it scraggly, full and rich, or thin and spindly. With water and sun, they’ll grow and bloom there. And as for the pain in my body—well, some things are worth some pain.