Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What a difference color makes!

We have lived in our little house in Pemberton nearly five years already. For the first three, we had only a few rooms painted; the others were still contractor white. Because of my lousy close-up vision, Howard gets saddled with most of the painting, so it had to wait until he could squeeze it in among all his other responsibilities.

When we did decide to finish the rooms, we picked some pretty bold colors: a deep forest green for one wall of the kitchen and all of the laundry room, a burnt orange for the office, chocolate brown and beige for the bedroom and a vivid royal blue for the entry and hallways. We're delighted with it.

Then came the outside. Landscapers we're not. Worse yet, I don't know an azalea from a hollyhock so I was no use in the planning of the plantings. Worst of all, anything I have ever planted or bought in a thriving state quickly succumbed to my black thumbs and withered and died. My daughters used to kid me and say I could kill an artificial philodendron. Not any more, my friends, not any more!

Now there are knockout roses. I guess they got their name from the fact that it takes so much effort to knock them out. Three summers ago, we planted three bushes along the back of the house. Two summers ago, we added three more and planted four in the front mulch bed. Some are bright red, some deep pink, some soft pink and some are a fragrant yellow and white. Now we can truly say, with apologies to the rock group Chicago, we have colored our world. We'll enjoy the explosion of blooms and color until November. Aren't they beautiful?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A birthday wish

Easter was her favorite holiday... along with Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and just about any occasion that called for celebration.

This year, fittingly, Easter falls on her birthday, an occasion I always used to fuss over her and make her feel special.

So today, she is doubly on my mind.

We lived in a small ranch house not far from Atlantic City. My stepfather built the house himself, getting help only to construct the huge Jersey stone fireplace that filled one whole wall of the little living room. I moved into that house, the first I'd ever been able to call mine, when I was eleven. My room had been painted a beautiful shade of sky blue, my favorite color. The living room was light green, the kitchen a pale yellow. Unlike the homes of today, there was only one bathroom, also a pale yellow. When we moved in, the house was still bare of decoration. That was yet to come.

Little by little, precious antiques were added. The huge, upright piano that had been in my grandparents' home as long as I could remember, filled one corner, its worn walnut and mahogany finish hidden with a coat of faux antiquing. I spent hours every week practicing the lessons assigned by my gentle, cultured teacher, Helen Bozarth, with whom I sat for half an hour every Tuesday for critique, advice and music education.

When the holidays came, the house was transformed. At Christmas, one corner of the living room was dominated by a huge tree, almost always brought in from somewhere in our yard or a nearby farm by my stepfather. Under the tree, I could always count on finding whatever I had put on my list. I learned early on that it was wise to keep the list short, since we didn't have a lot of extra money and I knew no expense would be spared to purchase every item.

The front door of our house was never locked and people streamed in from lunchtime to bedtime. Relatives, neighbors, friends. Our house was always filled with laughter and love.

Easter brought the traditional egg hunt in the front yard. When my older daughter was little, her grandpop gleefully hid the eggs and then followed her around with a brightly colored basket to carry the treasures she spied among the bushes. There were always lilies on the cobbler's bench in the living room and everyone dressed in their finery, bonnets included, for Mass on Easter Sunday.

Sadly, all that's gone now. The house has had several owners since then and a second story has been added, making it all but unrecognizable. There are no relatives; most of the friends have departed and I'm sure the present occupants keep the front door locked. I no longer celebrate the religious holidays of my youth and my older daughter hides eggs in her own yard for my grandchildren to find.

But I can close my eyes and see that living room and the lilies. I can hear friends calling "Yoo-hoo!" as they come in the door. I can smell the fragrance of the flowers in the yard and see my dad cavorting around carrying that basket.

Most of all, I can see her face when we wish her a happy birthday and help blow out the candles on the cake I often made (never from scratch!). In spite of the long years of her absence, I can hear her voice and especially her laugh. This December, she will have been gone for four decades. Forty years is a long time to be without the comfort, the joy and the love of one's favorite person.

Happy Easter, Mom, and happy birthday. You are missed every day.