“Oh no, she didn’t have much time for hobbies and interests like that- she was too busy raising us four kids- doing laundry, cleaning house, mopping floors” I persisted, “She must have had some kind of pastime besides housework ... at least to take her mind off the drudgery of keeping up the house.” Mom always seems to pick the negative side of these type discussions.
Later on, it came to my mind- Flowers. Of course. Grandma had a grand and memorable flower garden. It began at the corner of the neighbor’s garage in the backyard and ran along the property boundary all the way out to the road in front of the house. The whole length of the garden was lined with a flagstone walkway. When I drove by the old house a few years ago, there was no such garden. I believe most people are too busy today to take the trouble to have a garden like Grandma’s. My friend, Ben, who breeds roses for nurseries to sell, told me that sales of Roses are not as strong as they used to be when his father was a rosarian.
In any case, the desire for a beautiful garden has always been strong in our family- and not just by the women. The picture below shows my grandmother walking her stepmother, Grossmom Rosa Friedrich, beside the garden. Unfortunately, the picture was printed in black and white as were most prints at that time in the early 1950s. Rosa was leaning on Grandma’s arm as she was very weak from cancer. She had refused what little therapy there was at the time for fighting the disease. And I believe there was a staunch acceptance of the inevitable in Rosa’s case. However, she must have really enjoyed these walks along the garden as I know it reminded her of her own expansive rock garden back home in Edgewood, near Pittsburgh, PA.
While I have my grandmother’s interests and passions in mind, I must mention the interests of her husband, Charles Gailliot, my maternal grandfather. He worked as a pattern maker at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, DC. He built their house from a Sears Kit. All the wood and materials needed for the structure were delivered in the kit, but my grandpap put in a lot of extras like the brick-a-brac around the eaves of the house. He could do any kind of woodwork with his hands and he had large toolbox full of augers, chisels and other wood turning tools. He made a kiddy car for me and painted it a bright red and blue- even the wheels were made of wood. But the pastime I believe he liked best was the canaries he raised in the garage- dozens of the birds. My aunt Helen told me that the family didn’t have much money to spend on hobbies like this. So, when she took her first job as a typist, she gave her father $100 to spend on building bird cages. He couldn’t say anything she said, something swelled up in his throat, and then he let a tear fall.
As family historians, we are always looking out for traits which are passed from one generation to the next- perhaps looking for examples of "What is Past is Prologue". Well, my mother, like her father, raised canaries on a smaller scale and kept a couple of cages of canaries for several years. I remember the tiny, fragile, cream-colored eggs that would one day show up in a canary's feather-lined nest. Now, for eggs to happen, one must have at least one male and one female in the same cage. So how does one determine the sex of a canary. Mom told me we had to wait until one of the birds matured and started to sing. The ones that sang the most eloquently were the males. The proof was in the pudding, er ... rather the nest.
Image: a PARTIAL glimpse of my mother's garden in Westminster, MD, Aug 2004. Click to enlarge. The Black Eyed Susan is the state flower of Maryland. Don't let anyone kid you, they ONLY grow in Maryland. Because, I've transplanted many bunches of the flower in my garden in Monroe, NC, just to have them whither and die before the next season.
My mother always had a flower garden wherever she lived. Her garden at our house on Nelson Road in Bethesda, Maryland, was the envy of the neighborhood. It was the most beautiful garden in the area and I ought to know because I traveled the neighborhood for years on my newspaper route. In those days, one did not purchase bags of soil at Walmart or K-Mart. So, my father made many trips up to the woods at the end of our block with his wheel barrow. He dug up and transported several loads of top soil and then he filled up his barrow with marble rock which were used to line the border of the garden. In the Spring, the deep pick Creeping Flocks would crawl over the rocks and the deep purple Grape Hyacinthes would form a swath of color about a foot wide and growing the length of the garden.
Image: I go for perennials myself- less work. These Day Lillies are doing well this year. In the rear are purple Spider Wort, roses, and an overgrown Carolina Jessamine (delicate yellow flowers are past blooming).
1. As soon as my Mother recently moved into a cottage in her community, she had to start another heritage garden as noted in this earlier entry.
2. Archived photos from my garden in Monroe, NC (Picasa album)