After I proved I was a competent weed-puller in the vegetable garden, the Vineyards asked me work in the more delicate garden where they grew flowers. The flower garden was against their detached garage, a very old building with a low ceiling. It was crammed full of tools. In the garage I’d collect my 10-gallon bucket to put weeds in and a trowel or shovel (depending on the depth of the roots). Then I’d start, usually in the front of the garden. This is where the shorter flowers grew; violets, pansies, snapdragon seedlings, candy tuft, and forget-me-nots. I’d work my way toward the back of the garden (usually two or three days of weeding) until I was under the six-foot-tall delphiniums, foxglove, and hollyhocks.
In the center of the garden was a small wooden arbor. It covered a portion of the brick pathway that ran lengthwise through the middle of the garden, and gave a little shade to the birdbath nearby. Honeysuckle grew on that arbor. The scent was powerful and unmistakable. It reminded m of my piano teacher’s house when I was six years old; honeysuckle grew along the walkway leading up to her front steps. Now the scent evokes a double-memory: piano practice and weeds.
Working in the sun for the better part of a day was hot and achey. But my arms got tan and it felt good to be making visible progress. When the ten gallon bucket was full, I’d haul it behind the barn on the other side of the Vineyard’s property and dump it on the yard-waste pile. There was a chicken coop alongside the barn and I’d toss a few succulent greens to the chickens, which they chirped over and pecked at happily. Chickweed was their favorite.
After a few hours of work, I’d take a break. Margie would invite me inside and I’d wash up before eating a snack. I tried not to track too much dirt into the laundry-room or bathroom. I’d wash my hands, splash a little water on my sun-burned face, and blow my nose. I knew it was a successful day of work if I had dirt in my snot. “That’s how hard I’m working” I told myself. The tiny bathroom smelled like my Grandma’s did: ivory soap and talcum powder. I’d wipe the dirty puddles I’d made off the edge of the sink.
Margie would serve me a snack, and we’d visit. She had 2-liter bottles of off-brand soda. I could tell from the lack of carbonation that they’d been in the pantry for more than a little while. Ken watched TV in the living room, where the blinds were drawn to keep it cool.