20 March 2010

Pussy Willows

We love trotting through Trader Joe's, seeing the different varieties of food, sampling whatever is in the back, having a cold sip of water from the cooler. The cashiers are more relaxed than at a grocery store, and lining the windows in front of the store are seasonal plants.

Today they had a short line of three pussy willow plants in the window. Coupled with the first day of spring, it was enough of a nudge into the past. I petted one of the little silver-and-grey catkins, having done it dozens of years and dozens of times in the past.

One of the first signs of spring when I was a kid was of my Uncle Guido showing up at the back door with a big bunch of pussy willows in his hand. They were for my mother, ever the plant lover, with the philodendron plant in a ceramic dish in the living room carefully nursed year after year, the rose bush ruthlessly pruned back every winter always to resurrect in crimson blooms in June, the "bridal veil bush" which bloomed in tiny white flowers and gave us flower petal "snow" when the blooms were blown, and Mother's azaleas, huge bushes on each side of the front steps, which blossomed vivid pink right around Mother's Day.

Mom would take the pussy willow stems and put them in a big glass vase reserved usually just for them. I was allergic to anything that bloomed and the pussy willows were the only thing that didn't make me sneeze. When Dad bought Mom roses for Mother's Day, they had to stay out on the back porch. But the pussy willows I could enjoy, and pet as if they were tiny grey kittens.

Uncle Guido spent his whole life with plants. For years he was a landscaper at the Alpine Country Club. When he wasn't making his living with botanical items, he was tending a big vegetable garden in the rear of his house, and every year as long as he was well, he would buy marigolds and argeratums (the "fuzzy purple flowers," I called them) and red salvias and pansies and plant them in the dormant beds in front of our house for Mom to baby and tend and water for the rest of the summer. Unlike me, he was unafraid of earthworms and the creepy-crawlies in the dirt, and, as he knelt in the soft grass that edged the flower beds, his calloused hands would take up each tender little plant from its tiny cup and lovingly set it into the soil, tamping it around the stem so it remained upright, facing the sun.

Uncle Guido left to work in another Garden last May, at the age of 91, but the sight of pussy willows will always remind me of him.

06 March 2010

End of the Trail

A sad day today: I got rid of the snow on my Farmville acreage. :-)

I also started taking down the rest of the Valentines Day decor (I took the porch items down last week, but then had a relapse and ran out of energy again) and the winter decor. The kitchen and dining room are back to normal and most of the living room is cleared. Still have the divider, the foyer, and the porch to go. The front door wreath is ready, at least.

The Bradford pear trees are beginning to bloom, too.

As I've said elsewhere, I can't quibble with this winter. It's been nice and chilly. We even lucked out at the Apple Festival last October. Last! It seems like just yesterday...the days just went by too fast!