Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Signs of Life
Signs of Life
A year ago I wrote about Rose’s lilacs. Rose was the elderly woman whose house was next to ours. In her younger days Rose had been a gardener and in consequence there are many perennials in her yard that as she aged became neglected as arthritis in her back made her life more and more painful.
Rose’s little cottage had been built by her parents and so was a family heirloom. She’d never married, but had several nephews who sometimes paid attention to her, but very little to the state of the house. For the first several years after we bought our house they would come and mow the grass when it became knee deep and one time did such a bad job of painting it that they left one side undone. That side of the house was difficult to get to and so I believe they assumed that it would go unnoticed by a ninety year old woman. Perhaps it did.
It irked me that after Rose’s death the nephews began to pay a little more attention to the state of lawn, mowing it every two weeks instead of every two months, but their neglect of the plants and house continued. The house has the potential of being a sweet little cottage if only it received some loving care, but they seem ill disposed to do much despite the fact that they are many in number. More than one friend of ours has expressed interest in buying the house and one went so far as to track down one of the nephews whose wife was eager to sell, but the nephew himself said that his own mother had been born in that house and thus it meant far too much to the family to ever sell. Despite their reputed love for the house the paint continues to peel, the shingles to fly off when a Sou’Wester blows, and the gutters to land in the yard.
Because the nephews are so little at the house I have taken to paying some small attention to Rose’s flowers. I dead head her ancient roses in the summer and for years had enjoyed the sweet smelling blossoms of her dark purple lilac tree behind the house. Their scent and beauty graced my kitchen table this time of year and I always gave my mother a bouquet for Mother’s day. And then something dreadful happened. One of the younger men, possibly Rose’s great-nephew, organized a yard clean-up party for the house. They pulled the skirting off the cottage and jacked up the back of the house. They pulled the grass from the long neglected flower beds. My hopes of their preparing to sell the house rose. And then I discovered that their clean-up party had included murder. The lovely old lilac tree had been cut nearly to the ground. Not a leaf was left. I cried. Why they cut it down and left the rather substantial stand of blackberries (which only I pick) can only be wondered at.
All winter I mourned that lilac tree, cursing whichever nephew cut it down and wondering what could possibly have possessed him. Maybe the roots would send up a shoot I hoped. I checked frequently, but was only rewarded with the gray stump that was left. Until yesterday. Yesterday I was able to discern signs of life in the old lilac. The four inch diameter stump is now sporting several buds that are sprouting from it. There is hope. When they get a little bigger I will cut one and attempt to root it. I realize that it will be many years before I will have a bush large enough to produce many flowers, but keeping Rose’s lilac tree alive has become a mission for me.