To pick … or not to pick?

Apr. 06, 2013 @ 04:24 AM

“You there! What are you doing to that flower?” a sharp voice cried out.

In a desperate bid to pull the stubborn azalea off the bush before the voice’s owner could nab me, I gave it a final yank. But it was too late. The voice was right behind me now, and I turned to face a very indignant elderly lady.

In the most piteous voice I could muster, I told her I just wanted to bring my sick mother some flowers.

Technically, this was true. My mother was home sick with a cold, and walking home from school, it occurred to me that a handpicked bouquet would be just the thing to bring her. However, this wasn’t the first time I’d filched some flowers from the old lady’s yard.

Sure enough, she replied right back this wasn’t the first time she’d seen me swipe a flower out of her yard.

Now genuinely contrite, I told her so. Her face softened. “Well. Since you’ve already picked it, stay there and I’ll get you something to put it in,” she told me.

She came back with several paper towels that she’d moistened with some water. Then with a final admonishment to ask the next time I wanted some of her flowers, she said I was free to pick away.

Fast forward a few decades later. Now I’m the one standing guard over a yard full of colorful blooms … and it’s my own child I’m chasing off!

I know. How could I be such a meanie considering my own flower thievin’ past?

Let me explain.

On the first morning after we moved to Spindale, I was out on the back sun porch when I spotted the couple next door heading our way with a pot of coffee. I ran inside to excitedly tell Tony that already we were about to be the recipients of some Southern hospitality.

As we chatted with Beth and Dave (it turned out they were from New Jersey), I learned something about our new address that made my stomach lurch up to my throat.

“Your yard’s been the pride of the neighborhood for years,” Beth casually relayed to me.

I didn’t dare tell her I’d never have the talent or drive to hold onto such a prized distinction. She’d find out soon enough. And then what? No more coffee klatches!

Actually, this fear turned out to be groundless. Neither Beth nor Dave ever mentioned my obvious deficiencies in gardening (although they were perhaps a little too quick to say yes when we’d occasionally ask to borrow their hedge clippers) and we had many more cups of joe together in our future.

Still, they had a point about our yard’s prior reputation. The woman who’d lived in the house before us was more than a gardener; she was a veritable artist. And a good deal of her masterpiece lives on, having survived even my ownership. At any time of the year, something in our yard is always blooming.

There’s even a white flower of some sort that blooms especially at night.

Anyway, realizing all the time and thoughtful planning it must have taken to create such a yard, my inclination for the past two years has been to leave the results right there in it. A few days ago, though, I had a different reaction.

Sage and I were outside surveying the newest line of bright yellow daffodils coming up, and he asked if he could have some to put in his room. I thought about this for a second. Fresh flowers in a little boy’s room?

And then almost immediately I understood that not even the ground could serve as a more natural habitat for a fresh-picked bouquet of spring flowers. After all, who understands more instinctively than a child how substantial their fleeting and riotously colored beauty really is? So I replied what at long last it was my turn to say: “Pick away.”

I meant it. We ended up making a glorious bouquet out of daffodils and deep red camellias and some sort of little pink and purple buds — I’m not sure what they’re called, but they smell heavenly - that look like little clusters of musical notes.

There’s just one problem. Now that I’ve given us permission to pick our own flowers, I want to put vases of them all over the house. And that means I’m actually going to have to learn how to grow some more … myself.

I’m just not sure I’m that grown-up yet.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email