We've had a cold spring here in the Heartland; not chilly but downright cold. Today the temps are hovering in the low 60's. Usually the air conditioning goes on in this house around the start of April -- sometimes even in early March. This year we've never run the air for 24 straight hours. We have had it on a couple of times when the temps got over 80 -- but that really was only for a short stretch.
When I was a kid, what I remember about late spring was Granny's garden. When I was little I thought she had a huge yard with thousands of flowers. The reality was the space was small but Granny knew how to create a big impact with densely packed flower beds.
In the spring my memory tells me she had thousands of pink, red, and white peonies. I'm quite sure now that she had some peony bushes and they put out a number of buds -- but there were not thousands. Still, peonies were always my favorite. Granny used them for grave decorating at Memorial Day. I remember she and Mother cut the peonies, wrapped them in newspapers, and loaded them along with clean coffee cans into the trunk of the car. Grandfather drove, Dad sat next to him in the front, and I sat between Mother and Granny in the back - and off we went to visit the respective cemeteries. One was in the neighboring city where Grandfather was born and one was in the college town where my father was from. We honored the departed of the menfolks. I have no idea where Granny's family actually was buried -- someplace in Florida, maybe. Or California.
Mother's gardens were practical. She planted parsley and lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers. My job, once things began to grown, was to weed the garden and bring in the parsley, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers to make dinner salads. The dog peed on the parsley with abandon so getting it clean was quite the job. Moreover, we grew some nasty form of leaf lettuce that required you choke it down as best you could. The thing that grew the best was parsley -- and we put it liberally on the nasty lettuce. I have never like parsley in any form since. Mother was always into saving money so we purchased salad dressing -- French -- from A&P for 39 cents a bottle. I've not eaten French salad dressing as an adult either. Every meal in the summer started off with a salad made fresh from our garden. Now I listen to Garrison Keller extol the joys of fresh produce and I remember with irony those salads we worked so hard to produce.
We also grew zinnias in our backyard. They are very hardy flowers that if you cut back at the end of summer will grow again and again. All summer my job was to weed the flower beds and in late summer cut the zinnia stems down to the ground, then bag them.
My yard has no flowers, no plants, no bushes. We hire a crew to come and mow and rake. I laugh and tell my friends, "You know, the best lawn is concrete painted green." But as spring is very slowly turning into summer here in the Heartland, I find myself remembering my granny's garden and wishing I could once more smell those fabulous peonies.