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July 16, 2004 - "Mrs. Willingham's Pinks" by Mary-Ellen Grisham


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Many of our members here at 2TheHeart love gardening (including me!) and Meg's gardening stories often have life lessons woven in. Pink flowers are my favorite and reading of Mrs. William's pinks makes me want to go out and plant some of my own! Have a blessed weekend! (I'll be playing in the dirt.)

"Mrs. Willingham's Pinks"
by Mary-Ellen Grisham

In those days, the neighbors were close, and the neighborhoods were friendly. World War II was just finishing, and people had gotten used to bearing with one another in troubled times. Nothing went on in the neighborhood without someone's notice, and I had definitely noticed Mrs. Willingham's beautiful flower gardens. Because we were renting an old two-story brick, Dad wasn't big on landscaping or planting a temporary yard. I was irresistibly drawn across the road and up the block to Mrs. W's comfortable screened-in porch and those colorful flowers.

The side of her house had a border garden, full of roses of all colors and kinds. In between these were daisies, cornflower blue bachelor's buttons, and pinks. I thought those pinks were just about the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. On delicate, leafy stems, that flower variety was light and dark pink with wavy edges, and I believe she told me that these were a developed variety of Sweet Williams, which she called "pinks." She drew me to the back gate where I could look the length of her long backyard full of cultivated flower gardens, borders, and circles--with a large vegetable garden at the very end of the lot. The beauty was almost more than I could ever have imagined, and I was just sure the good Lord had given me a little glimpse of heaven.

Because Nora Willingham's daughter, Lucy, practiced the piano at our house and was great friends with my mom, Mrs. W thought she should return the favor. I was told that I could come look at the flowers anytime, and she endeavored to teach me to embroidery and crochet. Sitting on her screened-in front porch, with cold drinks on the little stand between us, she carefully showed me her basket of threads and needles. Soon I was patiently embroidering a simple flower scene--in pinks, of course. I went on to learn simple crochet stitches for edging linen hankies--in pinks, of course.

Sometimes it just seems in the nature of things that trouble develops in beautiful gardens...and memorable friendships. The longer my folks delayed in making a move to a house of our own, the more I desired the fruition of lovely gardens. Consequently, the naughty idea dawned that I had a right to flowers too, and to make the "wicked" thought more acceptable, I convinced myself that I wanted to give my own mother a bouquet of natural blooms.

One day when none of the neighbors were out, I started across the street, not just to look but to take. I stood looking at the flowers, and even with my righteous rationalizations to support my action, I just could not bring myself to start picking them. I hesitated just long enough to give someone time to phone Mrs. W, and just as I reached for the first pink, Nora Willingham appeared at the back gate. "What are you doing, Mary-Ellen?" she wanted to know.

"I want to pick some flowers for my mom," I mumbled. She helped me gather a few flowers to take home, but she also told me that after that, I had to phone first before I came to visit. I agreed and said I was sorry for thinking about taking her flowers.

This agreement would have been the end of the whole incident if an awful vandalism hadn't occurred two weeks later. The streets behind ours were filling with large families, some of which had rowdy, undisciplined kids. One afternoon mom got a call from Mrs. W. that someone had destroyed gardens in her backyard. My mom gave me one of the most serious "talking-to's" that I had ever gotten, but with tears running down my face, I vowed that I hadn't done it and would never do anything like that."

Mom was convinced, Mrs. W. wholeheartedly believed us, but some kindness, some light-heartedness was gone forever in the neighborhood. Dad helped her husband clean and replant, and our families were always friends until we moved to another part of the county, but there was a lingering sadness in my heart because of that incident. As I got older, I realized that it was just another one of the many ways my childhood had prepared me for the realities of being an adult.

Nowadays, I have my own home with bountiful flower gardens. For the first time, this summer I was able to raise a variety of giant Dianthus that looks very like Mrs. Willingham's pinks. Neighbors have commented on all the pastel gardens and varieties of flowers. The other day someone even said, "You're really in the pink this year, aren't you?"--teasing me a little, of course. I nodded and thought to myself, "Yes, somedays now I feel just like I'm one of Mrs. Willingham's 'pinks.'"

(c)2004 Mary-Ellen Grisham

Mary-Ellen is a Christian writer living in Godfrey, Illinois, with her husband and son. Widely published on the Internet, she also edits a twice-monthly ezine, Eternal Ink. Besides being in the "People Who Make a Difference" Collection of 2the Heart stories, she was a second place winner in last year's Poetry Contest. Recent stories include "A Furry Friend for All Seasons" and "Love to Last a Lifetime". Mary-Ellen is also a member of Angels2TheHeart and winner of the Heavenly Angel award!


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