Last week I was digging up lirope plants and unearthed a memory.
Saturday was another lovely spring day and I noticed that my Tree-Grows-in-Brooklyn snapdragon is revving up for another good year. I’ve written about it before. Every year I buy snapdragon plants which shine for a few months, then poop out in the summer heat. They don’t self-seed, they simply croak.
This one is different. Already it is bud-laden, promising flowers in a soft yellow hue for, I think, its fifth year. That in itself is not unheard of; it is WHERE it grows that surprises me. It thrives in a mortar crack of the brick fence beside the driveway, planted by wind or birds. . . or magic.
When we remodeled the front of our house, replacing the wrought iron supports with wooden columns, I saved the support and cemented it next to the wall to hold a hanging basket. It brightens the area under the deep shade of a very large oak tree and greets us as we drive down our sloping driveway to squeeze the car through the narrow wrought iron gate.
I believe that a seed from that hanging basket found its way into that crack in the wall where it survives drought, heat, snow and assault by squirrels without ever dying back. I have already tried collecting its seeds to no avail, so this year I decided to make a bed directly below it to give it the opportunity to plant its own seeds, just in case there is something magic about that brick wall.
Last week when we visited Pogo and her boys with their new puppy, she showed me her dog’s lambswool toy and said that she’d read how lambswool retains the smell of its surroundings, the smell of home. Dollmakers use it to stuff wonderful handmade dolls like Waldorf dolls, perhaps for that very reason.
“Remember how Howard loved his doll?” she asked me.
It is impossible to think of Howard and his doll without smiling. Our beloved Akita, a perpetually grinning lug of a dog, would carry that dog in his mouth from room to room, outside on potty breaks, on walks, on car rides, even to vet visits. Strangers would laugh aloud at the absurd sight of a 135-lb dog and his baby doll toy. Never mind that he’d drop it somewhere along the way and one of us would end up carrying the soggy thing. He loved that doll. If he left it outside, we’d direct him to “Go get your baby!” and he’d run back with his ever-present goofy grin and return with his doll. When his back legs became so weak that we didn’t have the heart to send him back, we tried to keep up with the doll for him, but eventually it simply disappeared. On his last day of life, a year and a half ago, I wanted to take his toy with us to the vet’s office, but one last search for it proved fruitless, so we drove him through McDonald’s for a final cheeseburger and sat with him as he took his last breath. We never found that doll.
It was certainly not on my mind Saturday when my shovel hit something not hard, but impenetrable. I thought it was a strange root–a black blob covered with fingers of flagella –and it looked. . . well. .. dead. Squirrel? I reached down and picked it up hesitantly. It took a few seconds for me to recognize what I had unearthed: Howard’s baby doll had become buried under a tight mound of monkey grass, just beneath the eternal snapdragon.
I laughed. I cried. I yelled for Dearly Beloved. This freakish looking mass had white roots of monkey grass growing from its armpits, thin black ones covering its body, yet it retained its shape and there was not a hint of rot. Perhaps I should have reburied it, but I brought it into the house and put it into the washer. It came out looking like its old self without any sign of physical trauma from the months buried in the elements.
Perhaps Miss Piggy, our neurotic dog, would enjoy this toy, since she’d occasionally grabbed it when Howard was still alive to hide it under the bed because he was too large to reach under there. Would she remember it? I laid the freshly dried doll beside her and she gave it no more than a brief glance, then returned her attention to the oven and the pizza baking therein.
Maybe it’ll take on some comfort scents for her: pizza, steak, macaroni and cheese would be good for starters. Ttruthfully? She’d rather have a cheeseburger. But Dearly Beloved and I are finding comfort in that doll… and we don’t even sniff it.
PS : HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JINCEY!!!!!