Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

13 thoughts on “Separate summers

  1. It can be hard to go back and look at places where memories were built. I did see a picture of my grandfather’s house in Donegal, a place we escaped to several times when my mum had enough of my father. Those were the best times of my life as a child. A kind and happy home although very strict. The home in the picture looked beautiful.

    It is great you have the pesos to spread about as so many people are in need. Cheers.


    1. Shelagh: Northern Ireland, eh? Well, that must have been interesting. In the mid-1970s my second ex-wife and I drove all around the Republic. Just once, to be able to say we did, we ventured north over the border briefly to a town whose name now escapes me. Lots of barbed wire, barricades and British soldiers. We hightailed it back over the border ASAP.

      As for those pesos, it doesn’t require much to hire the yardman to mow, and since he lost his “real job” recently, it’s important to him. Everybody wins.


      1. I went to Europe on my own for five months of travel in ’71. I spent half the time near Dublin with family and a beau. You were probably in Londonderry. I hated all the guns and barricades which is why I only visited my aunt once there. The soldiers were so intimidating.


        1. Shelagh: What I remember most about Dublin where we stayed a night or two is Guinness Stout. Love the stuff. Ireland — at least back then — keeps its best Guinness for home consumption and exports a lesser product. The stuff you get in the pubs there is a religious experience, or it was then, long time ago.

          The Limeys created a very big problem in Ireland. They should have left it in peace at the get-go.


  2. My memories of Austin, TX, where I was born and generations of my family lived over time, are squashed by what it has become. So liberal as to be conservative. So built up as to be dizzying when driving and landmarks have been replaced by this and that. Thank goodness I have my memories. My son lives there now and I am summoned once in a while to babysit my granddaughter. Now there is a toll road that takes me to his house and I can bypass just about all of Austin.


    1. Carole: Austin is laughably left-wing and should be run, tarred and feathered, straight out of Texas. It’s San Francisco, Central U.S. Version.

      But how does one be “so liberal as to be conservative”? I am perplexed.


  3. Reminiscing about one’s parental units is tough. You seem to do it with your dad. You don’t want to dwell on their flaws—remember the line about honoring your father and mother—but it helps to rewind the VCR once in a while to remember what went on and how it affects you now. For all their flaws you still wonder if you could have done any better. Anyway.

    Last nite at a party here a guy was raving about the beauty of Michoacan, particularly the lush vegetation. Right now San Miguel looks like the moon. I have three Michoacan pines that are doing remarkably well, though they need a lot of water to keep going. Also looking for one of those Angels Trumpets to see if I can make it go in the front patio where it’s relatively warm and protected.



    1. Señor Lanier: I do mention my father here now and again. My mother, almost never. Ironically, I cared far more for her than I did for him. He and I were clones to a great extent, appearance, personality, voice, you name it. Maybe that’s why he gets more attention here.

      I didn’t much care for him. Is that a form of self-hate? Self-dislike?

      That’s not an Angels Trumpet in the photo. It’s a golden datura. The flower is very similar, but the datura bloom is considerably larger. They are said to be hallucinogenic if you do something or other with them. Whatever that is, I don’t do it. You also have to be careful about touching them and then rubbing your eyes.

      They are very easy to grow.


        1. Señor Lanier: Angels Trumpet is a vine that goes loco, grows all over the place. We had that here — yet another of my wife’s bad plant choices — until I finally couldn’t take it anymore and had it all ripped out.


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