i. Near the spreading mimosa canopy
we sat. Powder puffs soft and Southern formed a pink parade.
Sweet perfume lingered from that world, a world of
Our Father’s filled with hummingbirds and butterflies.
From Lebanon this heirloom seedling came—a love note
Aunt Peggy sent us off the mother tree; a daughter mimosa
blessed our return from foreign soil, home. That tiny seedling
grew, swollen to capacity like a giant umbrella shading our yard,
teemed with life, this year, like Lebanon’s original one had,
like Grandma’s did in Dunn. As children, we girls scaled
the tree, picked its sweet-scented puffs. Other heirloom plantings,
hand cut with love, seedlings and crocuses met us winging
home from overseas. I treasured the poetry of the flowers
Peggy shared, tossed across the highway divide like a bouquet—
heritage flowers bearing names that read like A Child’s Garden
of Verses—lily of the valley, daffodil and jonquil, peonies
and pansies, magnolia, Star of David, antique rose and mums,
silver bells and cockle shells.
ii. I can see Aunt Peggy kneeling
by the great elm oak—bed around its roots trowel-tended,
flowers birthed under deft strokes by fingers which mastered
the ivories as well, bounced over keys. She sang songs appropriate
to every occasion, silly or serious, like Toothpick Alice
who washed herself down the tub drain. We heard her play
the Blues, Broadway hits, Bach’s cantatas, Czerny’s exercises,
Bethoven, Mozart, and Liszt. Peggy and Granny Mac gathered
us around the baby grand with hymns we all would sing.
Aunt Peggy’s wit was a sharp tool that honed a pithy truth,
words sliced facts accurately. Grandma’s character alive
in just three words, “whim of iron.” To the man who died
in a flight of helium balloons tied onto his chair, the word
was, “Let that be a lesson to him.”
iii. Aunt Peggy poured skill
and energy into the arts, brought symphonies to the school,
art exhibits to the county. At First Presbyterian, she chose
the Sunday anthem, taught choir members how to pronounce,
hold notes, come in on time, hit the right key. Her soft spot,
her passion, was her children, inviting cousins in, as well.
Family watched as hope dipped to agony as for two hours
we searched for Gene. She wandered, heart breaking, until
she found him slumped low in the jeep asleep after a game
of hide ‘n seek. She burned the highway up looking for Louise
and me. Lost in the woods two miles down. Anger surfaced
once we were safe, in justice meted out—me banned from
your presence, separated two weeks—one for each hour of pain.
iv. We spent a winter with you
at Lebanon when our heater broke. Aunt Peggy and Uncle Gene
absorbed us as their own; she invited us to Christmas in MacDonald;
where I read stories to Granny Mac in bed. Aunt Peggy followed
each of us with avid interest, detailed her grandchildren’s, great-nephews’
and nieces’ whereabouts, talents, interests, hurts, and victories
with love and concern. She dared tell me when my mothering
should change. Aunt Peggy’s presence lingers among us, joins
that of Uncle Gene’s: their legacy is our heritage. A canopy
of blossoms rises from green leaves, forms a house like a mimosa
of diversely-grafted children, scented flowers, of rosemary and sage.
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