She didn’t realize she had been holding her breath. Now as she turned off the ignition she exhaled slowly. Incredibly, she had forgotten the morning glories! As she gazed at the low rambling farmhouse before her, she felt a thrill of pleasure. The wall of the building was a mass of glowing green and bright jewel colors. A slight breeze shivered across the expanse of heart-shaped leaves, sending a ripple right into her heart.
She was nine years old, sitting on that verandah, dangling skinny legs and idly bumping her heels against the old brick of the foundation. She examined the vines, intrigued by the way each little tendril eagerly reached out to grasp and hold on as its blossom turned a bright trusting face toward the sun.
She shook her head now, as she opened the door of the rental car and stepped out onto the rutted gravel driveway. She was glad she had arrived in the morning to see the bright blossoms open, and so full of hope. She remembered now, that it had always made her vaguely sad to see the lovely flowers withdraw into themselves as evening approached. Having begun this day with hope, the blossoms seemed, like open arms, to welcome her home. Home? Was this a homecoming? Could one really come home?
Again the breeze seemed to send a cold shiver into her heart. She resolutely shook her head once more, and closed the car door. She urged her mind back through the tangle of confusion and pain. Leaning her elbow on the roof of the car, and idly twisting a strand of hair, she stood lost in thought. How long had it been? Her mind drifted back 20 years…
…The driveway was a sea of mud; even the steadfast morning glories seemed beaten down and defeated in the storm of heaven’s tears as the little girl pressed her wet face against the car window and sobbed. She watched the farmhouse until it disappeared from sight.
She hadn’t seen her grandmother since that day. Grandma Rose, who raised her for nearly ten years after the sudden tragic death of her parents…Her own grandmother – but the years had blurred the memory of her face just as so many small evil slanders had blurred the memory of Grandma Rose’s gentle goodness.
“Oh Grandma,” she sighed aloud. Cupping her cheek in her hand, she stared sightlessly at the whispering wall of green. “Are you still here? Or did you go back to Ireland like they said? Grandma, are you even still alive?”
Then, for the first time in years, she remembered. With sudden clarity she saw her grandmother’s hands cutting back strands of the vines, which left unchecked would have quickly grown to cover the windows of the farmhouse.
Grandma tucked one of the little vines back in among its brothers. Then she gently but firmly tugged on another grasping tendril, encouraging it to hold onto the strong wire trellis Papa had attached to the house years earlier. “We train them,” Grandma explained, “and then they naturally go where they are supposed to go. If we don’t cut them or tie them back a wee bit when they start to go like this, why, they just go wild.” She snipped off a obstinate tendril, frowning slightly. “It happens faster than you expect – and when they begin to go wild like that. Then we have to do some serious cutting to put them right.”
The mist cleared a little more and she saw her grandmother’s ageless and wise face. It was surprisingly unlined, except for the multitude of tiny wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, giving evidence of a ready humor and sense of fun.
Grandma Rose laughed a bit ruefully, bringing her story to its moral conclusion. “Young folks are a lot like that too, my girl,” she said, “I’ve see them go both ways. But you know the Lord tells us to train up a child in the way she should go and when she’s grown up she’ll not depart from that training.”
Standing on the rutted driveway now, she sighed with a violent shudder. “Oh Grandma,” she whispered aloud, “I have so many loose tendrils trying to grasp onto God-only-knows-what! I don’t even know if I can find that trellis if I try!”
She remembered the anger in Aunt Leona’s eyes that stormy afternoon; the violent words flung at her grandmother, and the older woman’s steady unperturbed gaze. A few belongings had been hastily stuffed in a brown paper bag, and she could still feel Aunt Leona’s urgent tug forcing her out the door and toward the waiting car.
The car sped down the driveway sending up a spray of muddy water behind it – the muddy water splashed up to mingle with the torrent of fresh drops that poured from a glowering sky.
She knew now, that her own innocent tears, fresh from eyes unaccustomed to crying, had mingled in some way that morning, with the tears of her grandmother who had lived long years in a dirt covered world. Grandma Rose had lived in sorrow as hopefully as the morning glories, which daily turned their trusting faces to the Giver of Light.
She caught herself up sharply. Enough of the melancholy reverie! Just walk up to the door and knock! You know what you came here for.
Assuming the bravado that had carried her for so many miles of hard years, she strode across the gravel driveway. Without a glance at the morning glories she mounted the wooden steps to cross the verandah and knock boldly on the rickety wooden frame of the screen door. There was a sound of rustling from inside the house, and a creak as the inner door opened.
She was not prepared for the face that appeared dimly through the screen. She stared with astonishment into the cold hard eyes which boldly met her own. “Agnes!’ she managed to choke out. The name was something like a strangled shriek. “What are you doing here?”
To be continued…
If you are new to “The Paladini Potpie” or have not visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.