I unearthed an image. I was digging through a dream of two high school freshman girls excited, bright, hopeful, best friends, flowers opening to spring showers and sun kisses.
We were standing under the Elm Tree on the corner of Gregory and Peck on an Indian summer Friday, on our way home from school. Stacey, brown saucer eyes, long arms hanging, distended breastbone, had plans for popularity and I needed to understand. “I can’t be your friend anymore, I need to be popular” her voice like the hot autumn day, dry, quiet, still.
A gardener, she had scattered seeds. Budding girls dressed in white organza tied in pink and blue ribbons with bows, powder blue suited boyfriend heads peaking in over shoulders, anticipation, round cheeks. Stacey smiling proud, brown saucers, convex breastbone protruding from the bodice of her ruffled dress.
They grew into hearty vines extending beyond her reach even when she was uprooted.
Plucked up by her mother and husband number six, adrift in the gamble of a better life far from their decaying one bathroom apartment on the outskirts of Beverly Hills.
Her garden grew untended. Vines crept along, up the manicured lawns to the high school’s entrance, they gripped the halls, zigzagged in and out of lockers, around metal legs of plastic chairs in classrooms decorated with periodic tables, chalk boards and art projects. They tangled legs and arms, braided into the hair of girls and boys laughing in yearbook pictures. They knotted beyond high school, into my summer and winter college breaks, when I would walk to the corner store,
“Hey, aren’t you at UCSD?” a shaggy haired voice calls out, eyes glinting green, pushing closer with a laugh. “I hear people kill themselves down there”. Hadn’t we once kissed? Stealing a moment after school, in eighth grade, behind the double doors of the multi-purpose room. Stacey’s vines had taken root in this boy.
Like an abandoned garden on the side of a deserted farmhouse overrun with sprouted grass and weeds, becomes part of the landscape, unnoticed, the vines kept growing.
Memories fade, decompose, transform, become mulch for a healthy garden. Till, dig deep, cultivate the earth, offer worms, cut spent blossoms, thin out dead, diseased and damaged stems, pull weeds, fertilize and deep water. I did all this, on my knees, hot sun beating down, sweat pooling, dripping, fingers earth-digging, clearing, planting new seeds. We all have gardens to tend.
That ginger moment, under the elm with my best friend, the one I captured and buried, looks different now. I hadn’t noticed it then; the ripening emerald undergrowth Stacey’s mother had used to swaddle her.
August 1, 2012