The recent - if intermittent - good weather and getting ready to flip the calendar over to May has got me thinking about one of my favorite places: my parents' back garden.
They aren't quite retired, but they enjoy puttering around back there, my father improving the porch and planning, but not quite getting around to - not quite retired - putting in a new dock, and my mother adding more and more flowers each year with new beds and an expanding container garden.
She probably has one of the most eclectic container gardens in the valley. She's not content with plain vanilla pots, she's always looking for quirky. Each year, the kids and I pick out a new planter to give her for Mother's Day, and in the past few years, we've found a manky old work boot, a tea cup and a so-cheesy-it's-good swan. When local stores start displaying gardening supplies, the kids go on the hunt. The stranger the better, and, once they've chosen a container, they need a colorful riot of flowers, potting soil, gardening gloves - how do those go missing every winter? - tiny ceramic elves or creatures to peer out from under the canopy of flowers and tiny suncatchers or windmills for embellishment.
I would love to tell you I take the initiative and have them put it together at our home, so they can present it, complete, to her, but do you realize what a mess small children and potting soil are? We take it to the bottom of Grandmama's garden, near where the river glides by, so we can watch the barges traveling north and south, the smaller boats rocking in their wake. She teaches them to transplant, being careful of the tender roots, and praises the ingenuity that combines black-eyed susans with posies.
Once they are sufficiently dirty, and too many flowers crammed into too small a pot, they choose a spot in the yard - either too much sun or too much shade - and she waits until they leave to move it. But, first, coffee on the glider, while my mother and I watch them run barefoot in the spring grass.
Grandmama also loves wind chimes, and, those, too, must be unique. She especially likes ones that recall a particular place or thing. On a recent family vacation, we took a trip on the Cass Scenic Railroad, and my father bought her a windchime adorned with tiny locomotives. It joined nearly a varied dozen tucked under the porch eaves, and I imagine, during the past week's windstorms, it was quite the concert.
The back garden is where we hold birthday parties, family barbecues and holiday dinners when the weather cooperates. It's where, when I swing by after a morning in nearby Avella, I'll find them. It's where we have long conversations or say nothing at all and just watch the traffic on the river or listen to the distant cry of trains on the other bank or church bells chiming all over town. It's where a thousand memories reside. It's where our family comes together.
It's spring again, and the garden is waiting.
(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)