Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tree of hope

That's a magnolia tree there, to the left. Not one that I know personally, because we're a little far north here for magnolias. They're a real southern phenomenon -- think Steel Magnolias -- but one of my favorites.

My grandmother, who lived with us when I was little, planted a magnolia tree in the front yard. Why she would do this is anybody's guess. She wasn't from the south, but she did love flowering shrubs. And Granny could be a little ... stubborn.

So there was the poor magnolia, in the center of the front yard, on an east-facing slope in Delaware, about a mile from the Delaware river, exposed to the cold easterly winds blowing in from the river. In those days, April frosts and snow were nothing unusual.

I lived at home for my first twenty years, and I think I saw the magnolia bloom a whole  two or three times.

Most years, the buds would bravely appear and begin to swell in early spring, hoping the warn sunshine would last. Then, on a cold night, the buds would blast and fall -- unopened -- to the ground, like a flowering-shrub stillbirth. The frozen buds formed a carpet beneath the tree, the branches bare above.

"Hmmph!"  Gran would declare, looking out the dining-room window at the devastation. "Silly tree. Maybe next year." She never gave up on it, despite its unpromising performances.

There's a lesson in that, I guess, which I wish I had learned earlier in the child-rearing process. Granny never gave up on me either, even when I managed to disappoint her the most.She always trusted in next year's bloom.

And that magnolia, in years when it did bloom, was magnificent.

No comments: