She had a beautiful rose and flower garden in the back yard. She mostly had rose bushes, but there were other flowers, of all shapes and sizes and colors. The last time I stayed at her house with her, I followed her around as she tended her garden with a slow and gentle touch. She listened patiently to my never-ending questions, answering each one. She never tired of teaching me the names of each flower, and which ones needed more water and light than the others.
Nanny tried to explain to me why she was ripping out some plants and leaving others in. It seemed unfair that some got ripped out. They were just as alive and healthy as the rest. She told me they were weeds, and weeds had no place in a garden. In my three year old mind, it seemed like such a cruel thing, to destroy something living and beautiful. I was very indignant, stomping my foot in defense of those poor, misunderstood weeds. With my hands on my hips I tried to make her see how important weeds could be too, given the chance.
Nanny listened carefully to my rant, and passed me a Snap Dragon. She showed me how I could make the flower talk by pressing on the sides. Weeds forgotten, I put on a grand production with the talking flowers.
Now I wonder how many of those Snap Dragons I destroyed to have little puppet shows in Nanny’s garden. I chuckle. I am certain she was more relieved I had stopped protesting the murder and unfair treatment of the weeds.
Weeds and Snap Dragons forgotten, I developed an interest in digging up ancient things. I didn’t know what ‘ancient’ meant, but vaguely understood the concept. The way I saw it – there was dirt, and I wanted to dig around in it because I was certain there was treasure under the dirt. Very old treasure. I had visions of arrowheads and ceramics, maybe even a mummy. I am not sure where I got the idea from, but I had it, and went on a mission. I snatched Nanny’s spoons out of her drawer in the kitchen, and trotted out to the back yard to the dirt around the edges of the flower garden. I was always as careful as I could be not to harm the flowers. I am certain I only sat or stepped on one or two along the way.
The first time I found something I was so excited I tore into the house, the screen door banging noisily behind me.
“Nanny, Nanny! I found some treasure!” My tiny hand waved wildly in the air. Clenched within my grasp was my treasure. A chard of porcelain. It could have been a cup or a bowl, but it was too small to tell. In my mind this proved that really, really old people lived here before.
She drew her hands from the dishwater, drying them on her apron. “Well! What have we here?”
I passed her my prize and she examined it closely as I bombarded her with more questions.
“How old do you think it is, Nanny? Older than you?”
“Do you think I’ll find more?”
“What do you think it is?”
“If I find enough pieces, do you think I’ll be able to put them together and figure out what it is?”
Together we rinsed and dried the shard and set it carefully on the kitchen table. With the lure of more treasure to be found, she steered me back outside, where I continued my excavation. I found several more pieces. Some were from another mysterious item, and some from yet another. I started to find ones that matched though, and began placing them together.
Every piece I found, I carried into the house in both of my hands and took it to Nanny, who helped me wash it off and set it on the table with the others. She promised me that when there were enough pieces, we would start to glue them together. Day after day I went out, searching for the remnants of previous civilizations in the topsoil of Nanny’s garden. Day after day the pile on the table grew.
From time to time I would hear Nanny looking around the house, calling out, “Where, oh where did all my spoons go?”
When I realized that I had not brought any of them back in, I searched the garden for spoons. I snuck into the house, and very carefully put the ones I found into the drawer I had taken them from. I snuck back out and resumed my dig.
Throughout those last days with her, I found the remnants of a small saucer, a teacup and a bowl, as well as a few things that were unidentifiable, and, of course, many earthworms. I always walked down the path to a spot that wasn’t part of the area I was working in to set them free.
At night, too dark to continue digging, Nanny helped me glue the pieces together. She was very proud of my amazing finds.
Several times, I heard the call for spoons, gathered up the ones I had out there, and snuck them back into the house. Never once did I think that I was putting the dirty spoons back into the drawer with the clean ones, and never once did I consider the miracle that every day when I went to reach for a new one, it was always clean.
My Nanny was an amazing woman, with the patience of a saint, and a twinkle in her eye that makes me smile when I remember it now. I can’t help but wonder how many of her plates, bowls and cups are still out there – how many she broke up and buried in her garden for me to discover.