Biographical Non-Fiction posted October 29, 2017 Chapters: -1- 2... 

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Finding happiness in Nana's gardens

A chapter in the book Nana's Roses

Nana's Roses

by Sharon Meda

Over the years I've often been amazed by the ability of a whiff of sweet honeysuckle, or the sight of delicate rose petals, to whisk me happily back through fifty plus years, and over hundreds of miles, to re-visit Nana's gardens. Surrounding her home overlooking the beautiful Okanagan Lake in South Central British Columbia, those gardens were always a place of sanctuary and happiness in my otherwise constrained life. The oldest of four girls with parents who believed that children should be neither seen nor heard, I was often responsible for looking after my sisters starting at a young age. My carefree visits to Nana and Grampa's home every summer were spent soaking up sunshine and love, and stealing as many hugs as possible, while scampering over the vast lawns encircling their house.

The property sat on a hill overlooking Okanagan Lake on the west side. Sometimes we'd sit on the grass for long minutes, thinking they were hours, watching the surface of the water below hoping to catch a glimpse of the Ogopogo, the local version of the Loch Ness Monster. Occasionally, our squeals would bring Nana running from the kitchen. She'd plop herself down on the lawn beside us, so we could point to the exact spot where we thought we'd seen the creature. She'd watch with us for long whiles, but we never did catch a second glimpse of that elusive Ogopogo.

The huge front lawn hosted many photo shoots. My treasured pictures include one of myself at six months old, and Nana and Grampa smiling proudly down on what was to become the oldest of their nine granddaughters. Themselves parents of one son and one daughter, if they missed not having grandsons they certainly never let on. There is also a rare, and possibly unique, picture of my father gingerly holding me as a baby on that grassy carpet. In one now tattered black and white photo, I'm standing corralled in the playpen that Grampa built for me with 2 by 4 lumber. Other pictures, taken over many summers, show four little white-haired girls with huge eyes, always lined up tallest to shortest, with big hopeful smiles painted on our thin, sad faces.

That front lawn was fenced on two sides by a hedge that Grampa pruned every spring into a straight prickly wall of green. Running between the gravel driveway and the lawns, the wall paused for a rose arbor and then continued to enclose the smaller lawn at the side of the house. All summer long the arbor was covered with beautiful climbing roses growing from the weed-free beds on either side. Blood red on one side, blushing pink on the other, and a blend of the two where they came together near and over the top.

Through that arbor, stretching between the two lawns to the front of the house, was a concrete sidewalk, each side banked with beds of Nana's treasured rose bushes. Unlike today's strains with vast arrays of colors and patterns with very little scent, Nana's roses were solid reds, pinks, yellows, and an occasional white gem. All offered heady scents; some spicy, some sweet, some smelling like the wild roses found growing abandoned on roadsides. Each evening she would walk us down the path speaking lovingly to them and calling them by name.

"You're looking well tonight, Diana. Scarlet, you're dropping. Maybe a little extra water this evening."

I asked Nana once why all her roses had girls' names, and she said it was because of the thorns; she never elaborated.

Just before reaching the front steps, the concrete sidewalk branched off to the right, running between the smaller side lawn and the glass stuccoed wall of the house. A narrow pansy bed ran down the left side of the walk, hugging the wall. The bed hosted many shades and combinations of blues, purples and yellows with an occasional brilliant white face popping up as a delightful surprise. Sometimes I just couldn't resist plucking one; Nana's admonishment was always diluted by the sparkle in her green eyes.

At the back of the house, lush Honeysuckle smothered the side of the back porch with a matting of grey-green, dotted with tiny pink and yellow flowers that seemed to drip honey. Hummingbirds with shimmering red and green breasts, and beaks as sharp as the thorns on the rose bushes, could be seen flitting from flower to flower all day long. The still air of the hot summer evenings was always bathed in the 'almost too sweet' odor wafting from that back porch, along with the ever-present buzz of the hundreds of bees greedily gathering up the nectar.

From the middle of the smaller side lawn arose Nana's Snowball Tree. She often said that she had snowballs in the heat of summer, and sure enough there they were, big heads of white blooms looking very much like giant snowballs. They lasted from mid-spring to well into the hot summer months. Sometimes a breeze would lift a few petals from the white balls, and we'd race to catch them, in our upturned palms, as they drifted down like snowflakes. Then we'd stare at the petals intently to see if they would actually melt.

At noon each day, we'd gather around the base of that tree, and Nana would bring us plates of sandwiches of juicy sweet tomatoes and crisp lettuce picked fresh that morning. The delicious homemade bread would be lathered with butter, and I expected to never taste anything so good again in all my life, and I'm not sure that I ever have. The sandwiches were always accompanied by real milk (not powdered) or sweet and colorful Kool-Aid by the pitcher-full. Dessert was big bowls of raspberries or strawberries coated with sugar and floating in cream. It seemed that there was always food in abundance, and I thought Nana and Grampa must be the richest people in the world. It's only now that I can understand and appreciate their wealth and how it was measured in love and happiness, never dollars.

Too short were the hours and days when we ran and giggled over those manicured carpets, chasing butterflies and each other without a care, but those happy impressions have followed me through my 61 years without fading in the slightest. Whenever I drift back to that cloud of memories it always puts a silly grin on my face as I re-live the glorious colors, heavenly scents, and the feel of the cool, soft grass between my bare toes once again. My mouth waters with the sweetness of raspberries and cream. I often shed a tear as I remember the hug of Nana's strong arms, the powerful perfume of the roses, and Honeysuckle tickling my nose, and I'm lulled once again by the constant hum of the multitude of tiny bee wings. Those precious memories have the power to replace every thought and concern in my head with peace and tranquility for a stolen moment and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Nana, for sharing with us your love and your wonderful gardens. I hope you are resting in peace amongst Heaven's flowery splendors.

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