It's August. I've been writing a lot about my childhood of late and I want to share a remembrance that is pure August for me.
This is a story of crepe myrtles and my Grandpa, Bernard. Summer is always synonymous with my Grandpa, my mama's daddy, to whom I was very close all 21 years I got to have with him. As a little girl, I would spend hours with him in the back yard of the house on Brookfield Dr. I would lose myself in grand adventures, while he was working away on his pristine gardens and landscaping; overflowing with vegetables, flowers, plants, perfectly manicured hedges, and never a branch or twig on the ground… As I spent my days crossing lava rivers and traversing deep dark jungles, he spent those same days combing the yard picking up each piece of wood that had been discarded from the abundance of shady trees over head and tossing them into the old fireplace in the back of the yard, weeding the gardens, trimming the hedges, and riding for miles and miles on his lawn mower, his pipe always just so in the corner of his mouth, hat a bit off kilter, and those suspenders over checkered shirts with a pocket on the front left always with tools and a pen or pencil inside. My Grandpa.
My earliest memories of late summer were always ushered in with the blooming of the fuchsia crepe myrtles in Grandpa's yard. There was one in a flower bed in the far corner of the yard and one right by the house in a small little alcove that was my Grandma Julia's St. Francis garden. I am sure that she was the one who wanted the crepe myrtles and probably initially planted them, especially the one that grew in that small corner garden. Her bedroom window was directly above that garden and from it you could sit on their high 4 poster bed with a perfect view of the glorious blooms. But in my mind's eye of those long, idyllic, sun drenched, hot, southern, summer days of childhood, it was Grandpa I can still see so clearly tending to to the crepe myrtles.
I can still perfectly remember a late summer afternoon curled up on Grandma and Grandpa's bed with a copy of Charlotte's Web in hand. The window air conditioning unit running full blast, belly full from a baloney sandwich, pretzels, and a coke cola that Grandma had prepared for me after coming in from a whole morning deep in glorious summer time play in that yard. I slipped under the covers and finished the book, the first one I remember reading all by myself. As I lay there, the bright pink blooms of the crepe myrtle blearily peeked in at me through the window, as I was crying with all my heart and soul, just devastated that Charlotte had died. I was just gutted by it. That tree stood by right outside as I learned the power of a story for the first time; a story that ushered in the thousand other stories that have served as the paving stones I have tread upon my life's journey. The story that held such value to me in that memory that I named my daughter after the little girl who saved a pig, who went on to teach a beautiful lesson in friendship and sacrifice to another little girl; with huge tears in her eyes, tucked under the covers, inside her Grandma's beloved house, surrounded by her Grandpa's magical yard, in which stood a blooming fuchsia crepe myrtle, watching over her as she mourned.
After Grandma died way too early… After my own immediate family broke apart into tiny pieces of shrapnel imbedded in every part of us… After we came to live with Grandpa, who opened that safety of his home to us full time, I remember the crepe myrtles most as his trees. Grandpa's trees. Later in my twenties, after grandma and grandpa were both gone and, I hope, reunited once again, their bedroom belonged to me for a time. I would sit at grandma's vanity that was by that window with the crepe myrtle blooming and just watch it dancing in the summer breeze. It was a constant source of beauty throughout my life.
And so all these many years later even though the house on Brookfield was sold and I don't get to see that particular crepe myrtle anymore, the spirit of those trees resides in them all. I have shared the story of grandpa's crepe myrtle with my girls and now every August as we drive here and there, they shout every few minutes, "It's a Grandpa tree!" and Grandpa lives on in my girls' minds' eye as the very source of comfort that he helped create for me in my childhood. What an enchanted full circle that is, don't you think?