Saturday, August 6, 2011


A soft, steady rain washed the neighborhood last night. I inhale, close my eyes and smell the aroma of warm, damp earth as it drifts past my open window. A small ensemble of weeds, conducted by a morning breeze, sways gently, lulling me into the half-sleep of remembrance.
I lean over the sill and study the garden. Once nurtured by two ancient German refugees, on a small narrow plot of land supplied by our building’s landlord, the garden now suffers from neglect. The apple trees have been cut down, along with bushes and flowering plants. Nothing is left but dry earth that sparrows love to bathe in.
Through the years, I watched my suburban neighborhood of mostly one and two family houses grow into a sturdy community of apartment buildings, two supermarkets and a cut-rate drugstore. The garden stayed the same. Coaxed, chastised, inspired by Emile and Anna – the refugees – it pulsed with life. We knew spring had arrived when the crocus and daffodils were joined by tulips and baby’s breath. The azalea flowered next—a showy display of crimson and claret. Roses, the color of peaches and cream, grew in June and emboldened by the heat of August squirrels knocked apples off the trees.
Emile and Anna loved the garden as much as they disliked each other. Every morning, the sound of shovels, a wheelbarrow crying for oil and their constant bickering would wake the tenants on the garden side of the building. No one dared complain. Better Emile and Anna’s squabbles than a hard, dry courtyard. At night, the pungent scent of flowers in full bloom wafted into my bedroom, encouraging me to dream of distant lands, exotic adventures. Dreams only occasionally interrupted by the high pitched mews of cats using the greenery for assignations.
Chrysanthemums grew well into September and lasted ‘til the cold warnings of winter forced them to fade. After Christmas festivities were past, Emile could be seen gathering discarded evergreens, tinseled branches twinkling in the morning sun, and placing them on the perennials. There they would rest while the tenants anticipated spring.
I don’t know why the landlord ripped up our garden. I heard rumors that a squirrel jumped from a tree and peeked in someone’s window and another neighbor mentioned cats keeping her awake. I think Emile and Anna must be turning over in their graves.



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