My little marguerite daisies are showing new growth, and as I gently pinch back the tips to encourage more blooms, I see Lucille's hand in my Pennsylvania marigolds. "It's just like this," she said as she broke the tiny stem between her thumb and index finger. That happened in the spring of 1971, and, thanks to Lucille's neighborly demonstration we had a spectacular display of bright orange marigolds along the edge of our driveway.
I was trying to think of Lucille's name while I was in Idaho this June. We have a mock orange growing there. Its blooming season had passed, and, in wishing I could have seen its blossoms, I remembered fragments of a poem I had written about an Indian summer in Pennsylvania. Our next-door neighbor's mock orange had started blooming out of season. I mentioned her by name in the poem, but couldn't quote it properly until her image came up in another month in another state in connection with another plant.
I love the way memory is triggered by simple events, often (for me, at least), involving plants and flowers. Taken back forty years, I revel in thoughts of Lucille, her husband Harold, and their daughter Merle, a trombone player just off to college.
Harold taught our sons, then aged two and four, to say "See this finger? See this thumb? See this fist? You'd better run!" Everyone would dissolve in laughter, and the boys welcomed Harold's gentle punches to their little bellies.
Lucille and Harold were not as obsessive about spring cleaning as many of our Pennsylvania neighbors were, but he washed the windows on the outside while she did the insides. It was a time for jokes and gentle joshing, especially when they did the upstairs windows. They also worked together on washing and clipping their white standard poodle.
While I don't remember Harold and Lucille's last name, I did't remember the FIRST names of our neighbors on the other side until just now, when I Googled them and was directed to MyLife.com. Could Thelma and Ray still be alive at 94 and 99? They welcomed us graciously when we moved in, but stopped speaking when our sons flooded their back yard. We got the "You'd better run!" message loud and clear, but without the rhyme and the giggles.