Search This Blog

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Promise of the Unspoken Kind…

A Nov DayToday Gladys and I were weaving our way through a light rain, about to negotiate the corner by Van Hulles. The whine of a commercial jetliner caught my attention, and I watched it cruise along just below the cloud cover, its tail fin scraping the under belly of the overcast. Soon I was lost in a cloud reverie, pondering the strange way today’s clouds resembled the small pouches similar to the ones gravity shapes beneath your eyes. Two sharp honks behind me shatter my cloud fixation. Some rude driver, I fumed, having to wait for the two old timers to round the bend, impatient to burst free and speed on down the road.

I round the corner and am jarred by two more honks. To my surprise a small white box truck slowly pulls alongside and I recognize the driver. She smiles, gestures ahead, turns into Bert Frohning’s driveway, and I know what’s going to happen next.

Last summer The Ripple posted about the dahlia plots out in the Valley and a certain fiery dahlia I coveted (“Lusting in the Valley…,” 8/27/2010). I memorized the row in which that variety grew. In October when the young Asian woman who gardens the patch was digging the tubers for storage, I happened by and asked if she’d share a tuber or two from the row. She kindly gave me a bucketful of tubers and this summer that burst of flame kindled in my dahlia patch. By way of thanks I gave her a bottle of Valley knotweed honey.

This summer another dahlia in her patch caught my attention, a spidery sunburst blossom of “dinner plate” size, a blaze of red ringed the perimeter, a globe of yellow exploded at the center. The next time I saw the little gardener, I asked her if we could do another exchange this fall. “You show me, “ she said. I pointed and she nodded her head. That was that until a month ago when I noticed the entire patch had been dug.  Ah, disappointment. “No dahlia this year,” I lamented.

Two weeks later out in the Valley I see the little white box truck parked by the flower patch and I ride up on the lady gardener. “I guess I’m too late for the dahlia tubers, then?” I ask.  She thinks for a moment and replies she has them all in storage but will bring some the next day. She is planting spring bulbs, tulips,  hundreds of them, thousands maybe. A half dozen bins of spring bulbs are perched on the tailgate (“two, three thousand dollar.” She nods toward the bins. thirty-five of them she’ll plant, she tells me).

That afternoon I dig two mounds of dahlias and separate some of the tubers I’ve promised her in exchange, and a little after ten the next day I drive out in the Valley. Sure enough there’s the little white truck and the little Asian lady hunkered down over a rill planting one tulip bulb after another. She looks up as I approach. When she sees the plastic bags I’m carrying, an embarrassed look crosses her face…my dahlias are in storage; she has forgotten them. “You be home tonight, five, six? I bring.” “Will you be here tomorrow?” I ask. She nods, “You come at ten.” I give her her tubers and a jar of Tualco Valley wildflower honey, this summer’s vintage, my gesture of thanks.

The next day I’m out in the Valley at ten. No little white truck. No little gardener. The tulip rills appear mounded over. Looks like the planting is completed. I return the day after and once more the patch is vacant. “Well, that’s that,” I tell myself. “I won’t see her again this year.” My efforts for a mutual exchange appear to have been for naught. But there’s just something about the young woman that makes me trust I’ll get my dahlias; she won’t…wouldn’t let me down, would she? Could she…? As the days passed, I checked the front porch every day thinking perhaps a bag of tubers would be on the doorstep. Nothing. After a while I stopped looking altogether.

The young woman steps out of the cab.“I have them now,” she smiles as Gladys and I roll to a stop behind the truck. She swings up the rolling door, reaches in, grabs a plastic bag and hands it to me. I look inside and a dozen plump tubers stare back. She has been carrying my dahlias with her all this time.

You know, in the scheme of earth shattering events, our little exchange wasn’t much; the larger schemes of things beyond our control we wisely let go—or should. What’s the use…let others tilt at windmills. Her dahlias for mine: there was no handshake, no contract signed in the presence of lawyers, no promises made. We are of different cultures, Va and I: she, Asian, me, Irish; yet it was a tacit agreement between us; across the cultural divide we shared a common value, one good turn for another. A favor for a favor.

Print this post

No comments:

Post a Comment