On the other hand…

Posted on Dec 7, 2016 | 1 comment

I was out in the garden when a giant black Hillux pulled up.  A woman got out  holding some scissors high in her hand much like the original Crusaders held the giant cross when they marched into Constantinople.

‘What are you doing?’  I said.  Ask a silly question why don’t you, Renée?

‘My mother died seventeen years ago,’ she said, ‘so every year on the anniversary of her death I put a vase of beautiful roses on her table.’

‘They’re my roses,’ I said.

‘Yes but you’ve got plenty.’

‘Did you think of asking?’ I said.

She looked astonished.  It was very well done.  Probably got A+ in Drama Class.  ‘But they’re hanging over the fence,’ she said.

‘Bugger off,’ I said.  ‘Next time ask.’

A bit rude.  And I didn’t believe her story about her mother – not at all.  It was all she could think up when I  challenged her.  She was probably going to take them to someone and say they were from her own garden.  Grump, grump, grump.

A little kid came and knocked on the door about a month ago and said could she please have a few flowers to make a bouquet for the teacher.  All the kids were bringing a few and they were going to make a big bunch and they’d all made cards.  ‘Five would be good,’ she said.

So I took her round and she chose the flowers and I cut them and after I’d wrapped them up in some tissue, she said, ‘Thank you very much, you’ve been very kind.’   I heard her mother’s voice in those words and probably her grandmother’s.

My garden in front of my little house is small and crammed with roses, irises, love-in-a-mist, candytuft, geums, borage, nasturtiums, sweet peas, swan plants and lots of others.  It is perhaps a little over-exuberant for such a small plot.  It takes work to keep it happy.  There’s a fence between it and the footpath but you can’t see the fence much at the moment because roses are all over it.  Nearly everyone who goes past says hello or Kia ora when they see me.  They stop and sniff my flowers, say what a nice day it is. Some take photos.  ‘Just to show my Mum,’ they’ll sing out, or ‘Want to show my partner the colour.’

There’s a blind woman who goes for a walk every day and if I’m out there I’ll call out so she knows I’m around. ‘Hello Renée,’ she says, ‘is David there?’  This is because she came past one day and said, ‘Who’s with you?’ And I said, “David, my son, David.’

So then they talked for a bit then another day Tim was just leaving and I said, ‘Hi, this is Tim, another son.’ So she talked to Tim for a while.’  And now she asks after him as well.  One day she heard a man’s voice in the garden and said, ‘Who’s that?  Is that you David?  Tim?’

He said, ‘Not it’s the young spunky chap from the Hardware shop,’ and he laughed to show it was a joke and she laughed too.

Sometimes people come to the fence and say, ‘You’re Renée aren’t you.’  I never know whether to say yes or say, ‘No I’m her sister, Renée’s in Dubrovnik at the moment. Can I take a message?’  Usually I say yes.  And then they remind me of something I’ve written that spoke to them and then, then, they  tell me their story and I listen and think what arses we humans are to each other at times.  How much does it take to be kind?

I’m a fine one to talk.  I refused to give that woman some roses.  Would it have hurt me?  Even though she lied?  No.  The truth is I got snotty because she didn’t ask properly.  Also coming prepared with the scissors was a little bit off.  Or a hell of a lot off.

I thought of that fourteen-year-old boy, just last week, who came along, looked around, didn’t see me working at the kitchen bench which has windows that face the road.  What’s he up to?  I watched him search gently through the  Blackberry Nip buds, choose one, gave a quick snip with his fingers, turn away and as a girl around his age came along he handed her the rose.  She held it to her nose, smiled at him and they walked off together.  Instead of rushing out and demanding to know why he stole my rose, I just  stood by the bench and hoped like hell life went well for them and that this first tentative romantic gesture would be a lovely memory as they went their separate ways.

I think, all appearances to the contrary, I must be a romantic at heart.  Probably superficial and shallow too – I mean I like reading books that make me laugh?  Whatever the genre?  And – I’ve used the same cheap shampoo for ten years because it’s called Drama Clean?

And because it was the scissors, darlings, it was the scissors




One Comment

  1. 12-7-2016

    Loved this, Renee. We had a similar experience in Newtown with an abundant old lemon tree by the gate. I started shooing off people who didn’t ask, and one day marched out and confronted a woman who’d come armed with plastic shopping bags, for god’s sake. Only then discovered I knew her – she was our dodgy landlady from a previous house, fallen on tough times. I helped her fill the bags, we chatted… then next day Robyn saw her in Cuba St selling “organic heritage lemons”! Ha!