The screen slides open with a creak, its wheels protesting the awakening from winter hibernation. It is the first sweet spring day, and they know what that means. He stands from his worn leather chair, knees and seams both groaning with age. She sits in the kitchen, sifting through handwritten recipes and magazine cutouts, looking for anything she could prepare for dinner that night...again. He climbs the step into the kitchen where she was. The place she always is, he thought.
They don't have to say anything - the scent of spring and the thought of what that meant was enough to stir the memory. Standing slowly and walking even slower, she retrieves his coat. Scratchy, worn wool tickling her delicate, but work-calloused hands, his still-strong arms find their holes as she helps him put the coat on. She gets her scarf, still resting on the piano bench from the recent winter outings.
The screen door takes some coaxing, but he manages to open it wide enough that both of them can go out together, supporting each other down the two concrete steps to the patio. Though the walk to the garden is only a short way away, she tucks her arm in his, and his scratchy coat brushes her wrinkled cheek. She smiles at that. He had always told her they were the perfect height for each other - her head resting on his arm and his chin resting on her head.
Their steps were slow...much slower than they used to be when they would chase each other around the house - just the two of them - until he would catch her and tickle her. Then, when their babies were born, they would play tag in the backyard, while the dandelions and clover glowed with evening sunlight.
They are headed for the bare patch in their yard. In the black dirt, not a weed is to be seen, for the ground has been so well cared for that weeds are afraid to come back. This is his and this is hers. This patch that looks so neglected and exposed - they have seen it full of life and provision. They have dug hands down into clumped ground, tossed seeds into hand-plowed rows, and pulled weeds for hours. This is the place where they taught their children to reap what they sow, and that hard work is rewarding.
The Garden. It is their constant in this physical life. It does not suffer from heart attacks or cancer; it does not lose its friends one by one; it does not forget its grandchildren's names and birthdays. This haven is their place of simplicity. Each day, the shoots become plants, and the buds become produce, while the planters grow weaker and their love grows stronger. And in the summer, when the green beans plants are tall and tangled, the hot wind blows. Those green bean plants whisper a song that he says to her everyday. Stay with me. One more day. My beloved. The garden sings it as well, for somehow, it knows that the planters are forgetting about their haven. It has had a good life.*Inspired, in part, by my grandparents and the spring gardening I've been doing.
*Photos of our early garden!
*Look for more fiction from me soon. I'm in a writing mood!