A blooming legacy

We make a point of wandering the property every day. Two and a half acres. As the weather warms, we are delighted with new discoveries.

We didn’t just buy a house. We bought a homestead. Jay and Nancy lived here for 52 years. The original house was tiny – maybe 1,000 square feet, three bedrooms, one bathroom. They raised three children in that small house. It wasn’t until after their children moved out that they decided to do a major renovation on the house – adding a massive family room, and an upstairs master suite, with library.

When Nancy developed dementia, Jay did the best he could to care for her, but she was placed in a memory care facility in 2019. He wanted to be with her, and made the decision to sell, and move to a small apartment to be close by.

She was a gardener. As we met our new neighbors, we heard tales of Nancy’s devotion, and generosity. “We only recognized her from behind – she was always digging!” Every property on the street is decorated with hostas, iris, and peonies that she shared as she divided plants.

Nancy died in November. We’ve stayed in touch with Jay – sometimes delivering mail, always taking him cookies, or an occasional hot meal. During a visit to his apartment in January he seemed a little more awkward than usual.

“I have a strange question. I’ve got Nancy’s ashes back. I was wondering if I could take her to the gardens. I don’t know what else to do with her…”

When he called a couple weeks ago, it was one of the first warm days. The winter aconite and snow drops were putting on a dazzling show along the back tree line. “Today is the day. I’ll be over sometime after two. You probably won’t even know I’ve been there…”

We took that to mean he wanted privacy, so we retreated inside the house for the afternoon. We saw his truck across the street later that afternoon, he was likely visiting a neighbor, so we know he’d been by.

With each new discovery, we are just overwhelmed by the beauty. Tiny tulips (species tulips) and the most adorable jonquil (we’ve been calling them ‘dwarf-odills’). Scrawny bushes have burst into bright yellow blooms. Carpets of hyacinth, dotted with clusters of daffodils and narcissus. A friend has described this process – “the property is introducing itself to you.”

And we say “Thank you, Nancy”. Every day.

14 thoughts on “A blooming legacy

    • We hope so! She’ll likely haunt us if we screw up! We had the opportunity to meet her daughter when they had an estate sale before we bought – and one of the first things she asked us was if we planned to maintain the gardens, or rip them out! She was relieved! We are going to wait a year before adding much – need to see what’s already here!

    • Thank you, dear! We are still a little surprised that we did this – sort of planned, sort of spur-of-the-moment. We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, but damn, are we having fun! Xoxox

    • Thank you! Because it was their home for so long, and they’ve done so much to build the homestead (did you see that barn?!?!?), we’ve told Jay, and all three children that they will always be welcome to visit. We also recommended calling first, as we’re not great about wearing trousers!

      • That’s so great you’re open to letting them visit! Our first place here in Texas was an old limestone homestead that was built in the late 1880’s. It was owned by the same family until we bought it in 1996. Two sets of 10 children each (!) were raised there over the years in a smallish house that was perfect for just the two of us. We were friends with one of the “kids” (then in his 70’s) and at one point we had him and all of his siblings come back to visit. It was really fun because they could point out things that we weren’t aware of. Like the bullet hole in the door made by one of the brothers when he was cleaning his rifle and it went off. And how the snow would sprinkle down on the boys through chinks in the roof as they lay in their beds in the upper half-story “boys’ dormitory.” And the tales of riding their horses to the one room schoolhouse a few miles away. Priceless.

        • That’s really cool! That reunion must have been a blast! And i’m sure they family appreciated that opportunity!

          We learned that there was a house on the adjacent property – built in the 1800’s – that came down in the 1970’s. All of the bricks from that home have been salvaged, and many are now part of the landscaping at the home. There are still a few hundred left for repairs and more landscaping!

          After we started getting settled in, Jay only came inside the house once – and he seemed a little uncomfortable seeing our ‘stuff’ here, and that i’d swapped out the kitchen bar stools for something more comfortable. i don’t think he wants to see the inside. Early in the fall when all of the leaves started covering the property, he came by to visit and seemed a bit surprised how much we were keeping up with the yard work – and that i’d been working to prep the gardens for winter. We feel like we want his approval – and the family – for being good stewards of the land. He gave us scrapbooks that show the gardens in their full glory – when Nancy was winning regional gardening awards! We will do our best to maintain the place…

  1. The man loved his wife so much that he brought her back to the place she loved so that she could forever mingle with the plants and flowers that were as much a part of her as skin and bone and most importantly soul. Just how gorgeous is that… it’s stories like this one that help me remember how beautiful humanity can be amidst all the other non-sense..

    And i appreciate the comments and such over at the lounge. Since i’m a lazy git i’ll just address it all here by not addressing it at all, lol! I can’t provide any spoilers as that would spoil it now wouldn’t it? But so goes the memoirs of a madman, oh mistakes he’s made a few and i realized that i needed to show our protagonist did have some of that aforementioned humanity, he wasn’t just a weed slinging bad-ass but a gentle and sensitive soul (how deep is it getting? luckily i’m sure you own boots since you live on that farm) so i guess you’ll just have to stay tuned til the next episode 😉 and honestly i do appreciate you taking the time to read that stuff so thank you again!

    • i knew you’d skip the spoilers, but i’m not getting any younger fella! i’ll need to know the rest of that story! i’ve got great muck boots – bring it!

      It is a sweet story. After Nancy died, we noticed that Jay seemed a little lost. Trying to walk the line of being supportive, without throwing unwanted memories in his face, i’m thinking of collecting some spring flowers for a bouquet, and deliver that with a hot lasagna, and some random mail and memorabilia we’ve collected over the past few weeks.

  2. Aw, that’s lovely. I believe in eternal life, in that we return to the soil (after coming from the stars) and will live on forever in the myriad insects and other life into which we will turn. But never mind all that — it’s just so lovely to make Jay feel he’s not been evicted or that someone’s taken ownership of their place in order to exclude them. Nice one DF! And I wish you many hours of happy wandering around your new gaff. Don’t know what the weather’s like there but here in southwest England Spring has truly sprung, almost recklessly!

    • “…almost recklessly!” <– YES! This is exactly how it feels here. Don't these flowers know that we're not done with freezing temperatures? That there is still danger of frost ahead for another few weeks? Are they crazy to let loose with such abandon? We did have freezing temperatures the past two nights, and yet the hundreds of glorious blooms are mostly hanging in there, and seem to have survived this round. We are in awe every day. She worked these gardens for decades. We will do our best not to destroy the effort, maintain it, and perhaps do some small improvements (with our limited skills and knowledge). We've had a few neighbors stop by and say they appreciate seeing us out working on the yard – that they were worried it would fall into neglect…

      And i agree. Although not particlarly religious, or even spiritual, i like the idea of going back to the soil. It just seems right…

  3. WOW that’s a very moving heartbreaking story. Nancy’s spirit lives on in the garden. Many of us do get attached to trees, bushes, flowers that hold memories. I grew up with a weeping willow in our backyard and I look weeping willow trees in a special way now.

    • I have powerful memories of lilac bushes – i grew up with one in the yard, that had been grown as a sprout from my grandmother’s lilacs… i have always wanted to grow them. I believe we have lucked into a place with a few small plants… i’m optimistic. Also have fond memories of weeping willows (although everyone who knows anything about plants say that their root systems are so extensive and invasive that i’d be crazy to plant one). i may have to settle for a weeping cherry.

      It’s interesting – we asked Jay if there was anything he had hoped to do on the property before he sold it to us. He said “I wish I’d planted more trees”. We’ve already planted one evergreen, and are going to the local nursery to bring out an expert to discuss what we could plant, and where we should plant it. We figure a tree every year or so is not a bad idea. Some of the larger ones are looking a bit tired, and i expect we’ll lose some over the next few years…. they will become firewood! (we’re gonna need a bigger chainsaw!)

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