Lydia stands in soft spring light, quite happy with her sprigs. Five dollars buys a bouquet of pussy-willow shafts, blond and fuzzy.
"This will be just right!"
With my screwdriver she drills a hole in the ground as she cradles her bouquet in the crook of her arm. Three holes drilled, three sprigs pushed into soil now thawed - right next to the deck to be torn down and replaced.
Crinkling her nose the way she does, she asks with a girlish smile, "What do you think?"
I consider the wording, having been long married. "Will your new plants be damaged when the deck is torn down? Think of all that equipment dragging through."
"I thought the new deck wasn't coming over this far."
With fallen face, she somberly draws out her sprigs, carefully sliding them back in her bouquet. She is bright as we near the curb by the driveway. She smiles the hope I remember so long ago when a house was a dream, when nothing could stop us and all was simple. I can still see her skipping in from work, so eager for us.
"These pussy willows will set off the driveway and be nice when we drive up!" She sets to drilling, warm light filtering through fair brown hair as she stoops. "This is nicer soil than by the deck."
I smile and study the old, cracked concrete driveway to be plowed up and widened someday. "I worry the backhoe will mash your little shrubs when they dig out the driveway."
She looks at her bouquet - not much smaller - and sighs.
"You're right." She pulls the sticks of fuzzy bumps from the warm ground, happiness ebbing, I the winter of her spring. She stands with her sprigs.
Feeling shabby, I motion ahead. "How about we go in front? There's not much that can go wrong."
Like a pageant queen with long-stem roses, she skips straight to the corner by the intersection and begins her drilling.
"Honey.... It just won't work there."
"Well why not!"
"It's the...." I am a villain, but know I must. "It's the 25-foot corner rule. Plant anything on the corner, and there's a traffic accident, we become codefendants."
She has already marched to the other side of the yard, not hearing any of it, there being no acceptable reason. She sets to drilling, still cradling her bouquet, drilling faster as if to finish before I approach.
Now the sprigs are too close to the fence. That one too close to the house. Those are too close to each other. A garbage truck will get that one by the curb.
Quite proud, she asks, "What do you think?"
I gaze up and down the street. Crab apples, oaks, elms, lavenders ... lazy trees whispering testimony of other women, of spring days long past and husbands standing near, trees understanding the order of it all. Trees that witnessed the same struggle and still smile. Trees knowing that God decides what shall grow where, that everything else is in the way. This is vital work here, and she doesn't work alone.
"I'll get the water hose."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society