In my previous posting Vignette- Paula in Minnesota, I mentioned the “travelling dinner”. I vaguely remember some years ago a friend talking about a “neighborhood dinner”, where everyone from the neighborhood (a fairly small one I believe) shared a meal. However, instead of all coming to one house to eat, the families went from house to house eating a course here and another there.
So on one of the evenings that we spent at Sherry and Greg’s place in Minnesota, we were invited to participate in a travelling dinner. Two of the couples did not live in the immediate vicinity of Sherry and Greg’s house, but were great friends of all the people who did. So they brought their contributions to the meal to Deb and Crystal’s home.
On the appointed evening at the appointed time Sherry, Greg, Rich and myself walked down the driveway. It was a very pleasant evening so the walk was very enjoyable. We made a right-hand turn onto the road at the bottom of the driveway, walked about fifty yards, passing the driveway that led to Connie and Joe’s house (Sherry and Greg’s immediate neighbors), before making another right-hand turn into Deb and Crystal’s driveway.
No house could be seen, so I wondered how long of a walk this was going to be. I needn’t have worried. The driveway sloped upward for about fifty yards and as we crested the top we saw that it then sloped downwards for about another fifty yards and there at the bottom, slightly to the right, stood the house. From this view point it appeared to be a one-story building with beautifully cultivated flower beds on the one side, and a wonderful large fire pit encircled by brightly colored Adirondack chairs which in turn were surrounded by more raised flower beds. All this was then surrounded by lush green grass and trees. Another piece of heaven!
But the view of the house was deceptive because it was built on a fairly steep slope. It wasn’t until another day that I saw the other side of the house and realized there was a lower level which contained a spacious apartment where Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s sister, Paula, lived. It took me a while to actually go into the house because, being the gardener that I am, I had to check out all the beautiful flowers in bloom and the various plants that I didn’t recognize, plus there were lots of interesting and whimsical garden decorations to look at.
Eventually I made it inside where there were some delightful appetizers laid out. Once we filled our plates, most of us migrated through the kitchen and dining area to a lovely screened-in room located at the back of the house. The view was as delicious as the food we ate. As I mentioned before, the house was built on a fairly steep slope, so this room was was quite elevated and gave the impression that we were seated among the tree tops. (For me it was a small God-moment.) It was here that we got to meet the non-neighbors, Char and Frank and Doug and Deb.
After about forty five minutes of eating and socializing, it was deemed time to move to the next course. This was to be eaten at Connie and Joe’s house and we were told that we were going via the “scenic route”. So we all trooped out in Indian file and followed a pathway that they had created through the woods connecting the two houses. It was rather magical and I half expected fairies and pixies to jump out from behind the trees. The crossing point between the two properties was marked by a lovely vine-covered trellis archway that stood over a couple of steps down. My heart actually started beating a little faster right here because in a “deja vue” moment it reminded me of my Dad’s garden. (See my posting Vignettes- My Kingdom.)
All of these neighbors are avid gardeners, so we found ourselves stepping into another beautifully appointed garden where flower beds were in full bloom with lots of lush greenery everywhere and more whimsical garden features. We spent quite a bit of time checking everything out. A special mention needs to be made here about Joe’s “work shed”. I’m talking about a GIGANTIC work shed the size of a small warehouse. There were big tools and small tools, and every kind of small (and some not so small) machinery all neatly laid out. As you can imagine, the men folks in our party were in hog heaven.
After admiring everything, flower beds and the work shed contents, we all drifted into Connie and Joe’s where a second round of appetizers was laid out. More eating and more socializing took place and by this time a few glasses of wine had been consumed so there was lots of merriment and laughter. In the meantime some rain clouds had gathered and so we got sprinkled on a little as we made our way over to Sherry and Greg’s. Earlier in the afternoon I had helped Sherry assemble a huge bowl of a very colorful mixed salad into which we had put everything bar the kitchen sink! As people came in, we tossed it in a home made dressing and in no time at all that huge bowl was empty.
We were all beginning to get full tummies but the walk back to Deb and Crystal’s house must have helped our digestive systems because we were ready for the main course by the time we got there. Actually some of us rode in the car because of the rain, but we were still ready. I think the laughter and the socializing shook the food down nicely because we even had room for dessert after eating yet another plateful of food. It was altogether a very fun experience and I’m already plotting and planning to see how I can replicate it, even though most of my friends live in rather spread out areas. But maybe that will make it even more interesting. I’ll let you know when and how I make it happen.
Tata was feeling very sad. She sat alone in the garden and a tear rolled down her cheek. She looked around at all the pretty flowers and sighed loudly.
“Why me?” she cried. “I have been such a good fairy. I did not pull the wings off the ladybugs. I gently brush the rose petals so they are velvety soft. I always help the baby birds who fall out of their nests.”
Earlier that day the Fairy Queen had given all the five-year old fairies their very own jobs. Now all the flowers and the trees, the birds and the insects, had a special fairy to take care of them. Tata had been named the Dandelion Fairy.
She was so upset that she did not see the Fairy Queen come into the garden. She sat on a little rock, her wings drooping, and sobbed loudly and deeply.
“Why Tata,” said the Fairy Queen softly, “what is the matter? Why are you crying so hard?” She sat down beside the little fairy and gently took her hand.
“Oh your majesty,” said Tata, feeling very unhappy. “Please do not be angry with me. I did so want to be a very special fairy with a very special job. I have worked very hard and I think I deserve to be the Rose Fairy or the Baby Bird Fairy. The Dandelion is just an ugly weed.”
The Fairy Queen looked very grave as she spoke to Tata. “My dear Tata, I think that you are indeed a very special fairy. In fact, I think you are the best five-year old fairy in my kingdom. That is why I have given you such an important job to do.”
Tata looked up at the Fairy Queen in great surprise. She did not understand. How could taking care of a silly weed be so important? She listened carefully as the Fairy Queen spoke again.
“You see Tata, the Dandelion may be just a weed, but it is also very important. It’s leaves are very good in salad, and there are many people who enjoy a hot drink made from them. But the best part is the fruit.”
Tata’s eyes opened wide. “I did not know the Dandelion had a fruit. Is it sweet?” she asked.
The Fairy Queen smiled. “No Tata, it is not sweet. You cannot even eat it, but it brings lots of joy. You see, when the flower dies a big ball of white fluff comes in its place. When boys and girls find these they have great fun blowing them into the air.
On the end of each strand of fluff is a tiny fruit, the seed, which then floats away on the wind. When they come down to the ground again they grow into more Dandelions. So you see Tata, even weeds are important. Now do you understand why I need you to take great care of the Dandelions?”
Tata smiled at the Fairy Queen. “Oh yes, your majesty. Thank you so much for choosing me for this job. I will be the best Dandelion Fairy that you ever had.”
Dad’s back yard was his pride and joy. Actually, his whole garden was good reason for him to be proud. I’m referring now to the garden of the prefab house that I associate with my young childhood – age five through eleven years.
There was a concrete walkway that crossed the full width of the back of the house. This was then bordered by a tall trellis fence with an archway set midway. Both the fence and the archway were painted white and were covered by thickly growing rambling roses. The delicate perfume of these roses when they were in bloom floated on the warm summer air.
Three worn red brick steps under the archway of fragrant pink roses led down to a lush green rectangle measuring about twenty yards by fifteen yards. In the springtime bright yellow buttercups dotted here and there in the grass reflected back the sun’s golden rays. Later on in the summer dainty white daisies danced across the carefully trimmed lawn. Sprinkled throughout the grass patches of sweet smelling clover attracted the buzzing bumble bees.
An upward sloping flower bed completely bordered the lawn, and from early spring through late autumn it was a constant changing riot of colors and perfumes. Large plump pincushions of blue and white alyssum grew close to the grass, their musky perfume hanging heavily in the air. Intermingled with the alyssum, yellow and purple Pansies nodded their pretty painted faces, while delicate sprays of deep pink London Pride swayed gently in the breeze behind them.
Jostling for room and vying for attention was a profusion of red, yellow, pink, purple, orange and burgundy dahlias of the single, double, and pom-pom varieties. Pungent smelling French Marigolds and gaily colored Anemones (my mother’s favorite flowers) somehow managed to find some space. Along the top edge of the flower bed stood majestic spikes of pink, blue, and violet Lupines interspersed with tall stems of blossom-laden antirrhinums (we called them “bunny rabbits”).
Beyond the lawn Dad had created an area dedicated to rambling raspberry, currant, and gooseberry bushes as well as some pear and apple trees. To one side of this area cabbage and cauliflower, carrots and celery, potatoes and peas and beans grew, as well as a variety of lettuces and tomatoes. It was always a garden of plentiful bounty.
Coming up the steps from the lawn and going under the archway, I could turn either left or right to get to the vegetable patch. It all depended on how brave I was feeling! To the left was a long line of “dreaded” larkspurs. These tall graceful plants had clusters of vivid deep blue flowers growing all the way up lengthy stems. In the center of each bloom nestled a fuzzy black thing with a bright yellow mark that looked just like a bee!
However, going to the right I passed the rockery which ran the full length of the garden connecting the front and back yards. The rockery was a magical place full of hundreds of small and most unusual plants with minute yellow, white, pink, and blue flowers that clambered over and around a fascinating collection of white crystal, gray and pink marble, and speckled granite rocks. I was sure that faeries, elves and gnomes lived there!
What a wondrous place this garden was, full of color, perfume and adventure. I felt like a queen as I played there and all the flowers were my subjects. How lucky I was to have had a father who dedicated so much time, energy, and love to create and maintain “my kingdom”.