Their 1/2 acre says “home” to me more than any space on the planet. After Nana died, Mama rented Nana’s house to nice caring couples for a few years. And then, about 5 years ago, Mama called and said she thought she was supposed to sell it to someone. Inwardly, I agonized, not that I had the funds to pay the taxes, much less buy it or keep it up for Mama. My mother told me that she finally felt good about these folks; she thought she could sell it. Her good vibe must have traveled up the telephone line to me…because after talking with her, I, too, was okay with it.
I have driven by the house several times since the day she signed those papers, let others put their names on Nana and Dada’s house. I’ve watched dying gargantuan trees come down, a portico and tasteful sun-shades go up. I’ve noticed new ornamentals in the front yard and observed every space I could see, without stopping and walking on up, righted, restored, and revolutionized.
Saturday, I asked if the couple she sold it to would let me look around the yard. Mama had been by about a month before. The owners had told her to come back any time, to bring “the girls” to see the house as well, when we visited. We drove up, unannounced, Mama rang the front door bell. I watched from the car, my stomach flipping a bit…
My Dada was abroad most of my mother’s childhood: WWII and Korea. When he was home, I think he was moving earth, hacking up the brick-like clay of Clarke County and working in countless tons of compost and manure. That, combined with my Nana’s champion garden-club skills, made their yard a virtual showplace. Never one to buy what she could root or grow from seed, from her own garden or a friend’s, Nana did not invest much money in this beauty she brought to be. She did, however, spend nearly every “free” moment there, when she wasn’t doing all the normal home-maker duties including: cooking huge meals for Dada and Mama or me, sewing all of our gorgeous clothes, canning all that her large vegetable garden and ours produced, or taking care of neighbors and me.
The wondrous world she wove is where I spent my childhood days…high in the trees: white pine and pecan, red bud and old, strong dogwoods. I dug bulbs free to flower anew with her in the fall, dead-headed Iris in the spring and summer, cut Dahlia’s the size of my head to dip over the rim of arrangements of snowballs and roses. It was the most beautiful garden on earth to me…but, honestly, it was genuinely, even to the eyes of a trained horticulturist, beautiful. No one could make something come to life, even back to life, and bloom like my Nana.
So, Saturday morning as Shel came out to welcome my Mama with a hug and waved us on over, I finally got to see the garden, again. I am going to write Southern Living and insist they send a photographer out. Not only has Shel, long an instrumental part of UGA’s Botanical Gardens and past owner of a nursery just down the road, added depth and whimsy and inviting places to sit and relax in the garden, he has kept a “child” of everything that had to be surrendered to old age and disease. Where shade now blankets once sunny beds, he has moved, by hand, all the old-fashion varieties of bulbs that Nana ever planted or at least their posterity. I teared up several times, on my tour. Sheldon pointing out this and that of Sara’s that he had saved and moved…to now better ground.
I missed my calling. I chose the lifeless green of business. I should have gone to Horticulture school, it is in my blood as well. I am most me and the happiest in a garden space, hands dirty, muscles tired. But God in His grace, has preserved that particular Holy Place for me…for us all…through the hands and heart of a brother, who somehow saw it as much for what it was as for what it could be.